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Looking at Wake County's plans for starting the new school construction program

Now that the $810 million school construction bond issue has been approved, the Wake County school system has plans on getting the new construction program moving forward.

Joe Desormeaux, the assistant superintendent for facilities, said they’re going to use some of the $43.8 million in bonds the county sold earlier this year to get things going. That would tide the school district over until bond funding becomes available fall 2014 after the county commissioners approve a tax increase in the 2014-15 budget in June.

Right now, Desormeaux said five new schools – Scotts Ridge Elementary School in Apex, Abbotts Creek Elementary School in North Raleigh, the M8 middle school in northwest Raleigh, the H7 high school in Cary and the H8 high school in Garner – and the renovation of Green Elementary School in North Raleigh are all in design.

Wake County school bonds supporters hold news conference today

You’ve probably seen plenty of media coverage today about Garner High School as supporters of the $810 million Wake County school bond issue held a news conference and tour of the school.

Phil Zachary, co-chairman of the Friends of Wake County, talked about how Wake was built on “yes” and cringing when he sees the vote no signs. Wake County school board chairman Keith Sutton talked about the need for new schools and Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Joe Bryan said the bonds were the best way to pay for the growth.

Garner High Principal Drew Cook gave a tour of the campus. I’ve gone into detail about the issues he’s raised in this prior blog post.

The Wake County Taxpayers Association will hold a dueling news conference against the bond issue on Wednesday.

Questioning the cost of Wake County renovations in school bond issue

Does Wake County spend too much money on major renovation projects?

As noted in today's article, the $810 million school bond issue includes six fully funded major renovations, most of which come close to if not eclipse the cost of building a new school. School leaders say the renovations are needed for the health and safety of the schools while bond opponents say the costs are a “red flag.”

This is not a new debate. Similar issues were raised in 2006 about renovations that were more like complete replacements of schools.

Impact of Wake County school board candidates opposing school bond issue

How much will the Wake County school board candidates be impacted by their positions on the $810 million school construction bond issue?

As noted in today's article, all the candidates in Districts 7 and 9 back the bond. But in Districts 1 and 2, you've got a clear split between the candidates on the bond.

“I’m surprised that anybody running for school board who has done the research would be opposed to the bonds,” said school board member Tom Benton, a Democrat running in District 1.

Impact of charters schools and private schools on Wake County school bond issue

What impact, if any, should the expected growth in the number of students who will attend charter schools, private schools and home schools have on the outcome of the $810 million Wake County school bond issue?

As noted in today's article, bond opponents contend that the growth in these educational alternatives , coupled with Wake’s empty seats and available modular units, reduce the need for the bond to pass. But bond supporters argue that they have to plan on the district getting those 20,000 new students projected by 2018.

“We have accounted for it,” said school board Chairman Keith Sutton of the growth in those other school alternatives. “They’re just saying stuff and throwing stuff out there.”

Using the Enloe High School HVAC problems to plug the Wake County school bond issue

Was it appropriate for the Wake County school system to bring up yesterday’s air-conditioning problems at Enloe High School to plug the bond issue?

Students were dismissed from Enloe at 12:15 p.m. because the A/C system went out. This led to the school system tweeting Tuesday: “#HVACprobs? Gives us a good reason to bring up the upcoming bond, which includes HVAC replacements: http://j.mp/gwfwd #wakeschoolbond”

The Friends of Wake County retweeted the school district’s post this morning.

WCTA calls Wake County school bond issue "unnecessary"

The Wake County Taxpayers Association says the $810 million school bond referendum is “unnecessary” because Wake can meet its needs by keeping all its modular classrooms and converting to regular use some rooms used for things such as band, art and special education.

In an interview Friday on the Bill LuMaye Show on WPTF, WCTA Vice President Tony Pecoraro said the Wake County school system doesn’t in the near future need the extra capacity that would come from the proposed $939.9 million school construction program. Pecoraro told the conservative talk show host how Wake wants to remove many of its modular classroom units.

“These are classrooms that have been bought and paid for in place,” Pecoraro said of the modular classrooms. “If they just left those in place, that would add 12,000 to 15,000 seats to their capacity, which is just about enough to meet their 2016 requirements.”

Changing the cost of the Fuquay-Varina High School renovations

It turns out that potential renovations to Fuquay-Varina High School don't cost $82 million after all.

Joe Bryan, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, has complained at the last two joint meetings about the $82 million price tag for Fuquay-Varina High. He's questioned why the renovation would cost so much.

School staff now say that the figure is actually $63 million. Joe Desormeaux, assistant superintendent for facilities, told school board members last week that "we found an error in our program on the cost per square foot that did a significant change as you can see with Fuquay-Varina."

The Fuquay-Varina High renovation isn't on the short list of recommended projects for the fall bond issue. The bond list will be discussed at Thursday's joint meeting of the school board and commissioners.

Wake Education Partnership on balancing new schools vs. renovations in next school bond issue

The Wake Education Partnership is offering some insight on the tricky balance that the Wake County school board will face between renovation and new schools in the upcoming school bond issue.

In the latest issue of In Context, WEP notes Thursday that building the maximum number of new schools will ease crowding. But not doing renovations could lead to a case of "you can pay me now or pay me more later" as problems build up over time.

"Finding the right balance will be frustrating," the WEP writes. "Commissioner Phil Matthews asked if it wouldn't be cheaper to just knock down the old schools and replace them. The short answer is, it's not."

1366981266 Wake Education Partnership on balancing new schools vs. renovations in next school bond issue The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wake County school board member John Tedesco warning he might not be able to support school bond issue

Wake County school board member John Tedesco is warning he might not support the fall school bond issue.

Tedesco gave the warning during Tuesday's school board work session as he complained about this $925 million proposed list of projects. He's upset that the list doesn't include funding for renovations at two Garner schools and only a small amount to start work on Garner High School.

"Excuse me if this is not a priority list of bonds from somebody who's been a vocal advocate for our bond thus far, saying we need it, telling others that we need it extensively," Tedesco said. "This is not one that I could support."

1366894864 Wake County school board member John Tedesco warning he might not be able to support school bond issue The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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