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By Angie Cook | Jackson County Floridan

Republican Sen. George Gainer had a small but rapt crowd at Rivertown Community Church Friday, when he delivered remarks about the recent legislative session and the upcoming special session called earlier that day by Gov. Rick Scott.

Representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio were on hand for the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce event, but Gainer represented the state legislative delegation for the county. Rep. Brad Drake was waylaid by a cancelled flight.

Hours prior to Friday’s event, Gov. Rick Scott announced plans for a special session that will bring Drake, Gainer and their fellow legislators back to Tallahassee, where they will address spending for schools and economic development.

Gainer talked about work he and Drake have done for their Jackson County constituents, talked of supporting increases in both economic development and education funding during the special session, and later took a few questions from the audience.

Locally, anticipation is building once again over the prospects for funding a new school in the district.

“I’d be very surprised, and I think the governor would be surprised, if it does not become a reality,” Gainer said of the proposed Jackson K-8 school, which will replace three existing schools in Marianna.

Gainer’s confidence that money for the K-8 school will finally come through coupled with work done by Southern Strategy Group, lobbyists the district hired to shepherd the application through the legislative process, has local school officials hopeful that the third time’s the charm for this multimillion dollar project, one that started to take shape in 2013 but has stalled for lack of state dollars. It is previous failed attempts to secure funding that leave school officials in Jackson County reluctant to start measuring for desks just yet, despite Gainer being “98 percent” positive the money will be approved.

In the upcoming three-day special session, legislators will address broader education funding, aspects of which school officials here have their eye on, as the district budgeting process is well underway.

Kathy Sneads, Finance director for the Jackson County School District, was one of several representatives of the public school system on hand for Gainer’s presentation Friday. She asked the senator about an increase in per-student spending, something Scott called for after vetoing K-12 funding in the budget.

“We’re going to try to make sure that, as we move forward with the charter schools, that it won’t be at the expense of the public schools,” Gainer said.