It’s been more than a decade since Gaines Elementary School moved down the street from its original location near the Gaines School Road-Lexington Road intersection.
But as the Clarke County school year begins Wednesday, the old school building will still echo with the voices of children, and the latest of half dozen names it’s had in recent years.
The building has temporarily been Winterville, Barnett Shoals, Chase Street and Barrow elementary schools for a year or more at a stretch.
The school has been the temporary home for elementary pupils while their home schools undergo extensive renovation, or demolition and replacement.
Now it’s Oglethorpe Avenue School East as construction crews build a new Oglethorpe Elementary on the site of the old school.
This is actually the second time Oglethorpe has moved into old Gaines.
Oglethorpe was the first school to use the building as a temporary home as workers added air conditioning to the school gym, worked on a media center, added six classrooms and spiffed up the paint and carpeting.
But as Oglethorpe moved a second time last January, in the middle of the school year, the school district put about $850,000 into the old Gaines building.
The work included new roofing for parts of the complex, air conditioning and heating improvements, new carpet, new floor coverings in the cafeteria, some plumbing and electrical work, and new modular classrooms and a modular media center, said Ted Gilbert, associate superintendent for district services.
The school board approved the work knowing that Oglethorpe won’t be the last occupant of old Gaines. Future plans call for Hilsman Middle School to move into the building beginning with the start of school in 2018, when work on the new Oglethorpe building is scheduled to conclude.
District officials plan to demolish the old Hilsman Middle School and build a new one on the same site, next door to the Gaines building.
Moving to the old building has both pluses and minuses.
Having Gaines to temporarily house other schools speeds up the construction process, and avoids the prospect of a school made up of portable classrooms.
“The gym here is actually in better condition than our old gym,” said Oglethorpe principal Scarlett Dunne of the old Gaines school.
Many of the Gaines classrooms are larger than the classrooms were in old Oglethorpe, have more windows and have doors that open to the outside.
“It has some old-school charm,” said Dunne, pun intended.
The children like the playground better, because it’s bigger than the one at the old school, Dunne said.
The downside is that the Gaines building is a long way from the westside Oglethorpe site, meaning longer bus rides or commutes for the school’s about 600 students.
The school district made things easier for parents who live within a mile of the old Oglethorpe. Under Georgia law, school districts are not required to provide bus service within that radius.
Now parents who live within the radius can bring their children (or let them walk) to Forest Heights Baptist Church, where they can get on an express bus that will take them to Oglethorpe with no stops between.