The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce last week released a report summarizing outcomes of its Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative, called i3. This year-long, citizen-driven effort, led by a 10-member steering committee of community leaders, researched infrastructure needs in Alachua County. The chief recommendation is to support the School Board of Alachua County’s half-cent sales tax initiative in 2018 to fund infrastructure repairs to area schools.
“Over the nine months, our committee members met with county and city officials and community organizations devoted to improving life in our area, with the goal of understanding our infrastructure needs and priorities,” said i3 Chair Brian Scarborough, area vice president of HUB. “And while we discovered the need is great in many areas, our research and public feedback told us fixing our schools is the most immediate priority.”
In conjunction with the release, the School Board facilitated a tour at Idylwild Elementary School to illustrate the types of infrastructure needs that have been building up across the district for the last several years. Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) serve 27,000 students in buildings where the average age is 34 years. Just to catch up on routine maintenance to roofs, HVAC systems, painting and flooring is estimated to cost $18.6 million.”
“Like school districts across the state, we have been asked to do more with less,” said ACPS Superintendent Karen Clarke. “With the drastic cuts in facilities funding since the recession, we have been forced to make difficult decisions and delay what should be routine maintenance. Now we have the opportunity, with our community’s help, to give our students the efficient, comfortable and up-to-date classrooms they deserve.”
The Gainesville Chamber’s i3 effort has served as a component of the Chamber’s work to grow greater Gainesville into a global hub of talent, innovation and opportunity. With initiatives such as the Alachua County Education Compact and i3, and under the leadership of the Talent & Education Committee, the Chamber leverages business engagement to facilitate the transformation of career and education opportunities available to Alachua students.
“Our children are our community’s greatest asset,” said Chamber Board Chair Rory Causseaux, CEO at CHW Professional Consultants. “We must provide them with the best possible education and training. Our future quite literally depends on it.”