GAINESVILLE – Gainesville School Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Williams says he is ready to face the challenge of educating the students of a rapidly growing urban population.
When asked after Monday evening’s school board meeting about the scheduled vote by the Gainesville City Council the next evening that would add an additional 283 households to the city’s growing registry, Williams said the district was ready to do whatever was necessary.
The school district had expressed its concern about the demand such a large number of additional families might place upon an already crowded school system in a letter to the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board dated April 27, 2018. Williams felt that was about all he and his staff could do.
Despite that letter the GPAB voted unanimously to recommend the annexation and rezoning request for approval and it now goes to the city council for its approval or denial.
When asked if he was surprised by the unanimous recommendation given to the annexation request by the GPAB in the wake of the school board’s letter sharing concern about school crowding Williams said he was not surprised.
“No, not really,” Williams said. “I feel like the city and the Planning and Appeals Board is always going to look out for the city as a whole. While our board did make a comment our overall position is to make sure that we’re responding to whatever that growth is.”
Williams said he appreciates the school board being considered in the annexation decisions made by the city. “We appreciate the city and the Planning and Appeals Board for taking our comment into consideration and having two-way dialogue about the growth of the city in general.”
Williams said he personally would not be at the city council meeting to comment on the annexation request, but, “The number one thing is we want to be sure that whatever happens at the city level we’re poised to do it in the future.”
“Whether that means we need to look at construction with ESPLOST, look at enrollment across schools, how that affects our zoning, there’s a lot of questions that are yet unanswered,” Williams said.
Williams hinted that no one knows for sure how the October 2nd vote by the city council will eventually affect schooling demands, nor does anyone know what future annexation requests await city leaders. “We will not know what that impact will look like, not only now but in the next three to five years, you know, how the city plans to continue to annex.”
Williams said the planned “Listening Sessions” scheduled for next month will include annexations challenges
Williams said with a perceived peace about the challenges facing the school board that he wanted to keep one question in the forefront: “How do we structure ourselves to make sure we are meeting the needs of the community?”
He said in the upcoming ESPLOST discussions the main thrust would be, “What number do we need to build towards? And what does it mean as a parent? Those are the conversations that we’ll have and get feedback on.”
“The parents are the ones that when they look at numbers, and you see that a school built for about 1500 now has 1800 students, that makes you a little nervous as a parent.”
To listen to the short interview with Dr. Williams use the audio player to the left.