Should a new high school on Green Level Church Road in Cary or on Humie Olive Road in Apex be built first?
As noted in today's article, that's an issue facing Wake County school board members deciding how to use nearly $100 million in unspent bond money. The board could make the final call on Tuesday, which would also impact whether the district immediately starts work on a new elementary school in Wake Forest, a new elementary school in Wendell or a new middle school in northwest Raleigh.
As you guys may recall, staff had proposed in June two options for using bond savings and other cuts to fund some interim construction projects until the next bond issue goes forward.
Both of the first two options called for building the new high school in Cary. Another thing they shared is early starting a new elementary school off U.S. 1 in Wake Forest near the Franklin County border and a new elementary school by the North Wake Landfill in North Raleigh.
They differed in that one would have also built an elementary school on East Wake High's campus and the other a middle school on Leesville Church Road in northwest Raleigh.
Now jump ahead to the July 12 meeting where Don Haydon, chief facilities and operations officer, told the board that two questions facing Wake were leading to a new third option.
Haydon said one question is whether the need for more high school seats in western Wake was so great that they should build a bigger high school. The new school in Cary would hold 1,600 students while the one in Apex would hold 2,200 students.
Haydon said the other question is that with Wake moving to a choice plan, would parents send their children to an early-start school if there was no definite date when the campus would open? Under the first two options, funding for the early-start schools would depend on the next bond issue.
So under this new third option, Wake would build the larger high school in Apex. They'd still early-start the elementary school in Wake Forest but would also provide funding right now so parents would know when the campus would be ready.
The plan calls for holding off for a year the early-start of the North Wake Landfill school so that they'd have a better idea when the bond issue would be to tell parents when the permanent campus would open.
This third option, like the prior two, still keeps in place plans for the ninth-grade centers for Panther Creek and Garner high schools while providing modular units for Athens Drive, Holly Springs and Middle Creek high schools.
Under the first two options where the school in Cary was funded, it would open in 2014 with the school in Apex potentially opening in 2016 depending on the next bond issue. Under the third option, the school in Apex would open in 2015 with the school in Cary potentially opening in 2016 depending on the next bond issue.
School board member Debra Goldman objected to delaying the new high school in Cary, which is in her district. She argued that they they had told the public they'd build that school next and that it would allow them to relieve crowding at Cary High School.
“Are we going to wait till Cary High just implodes?" Goldman said. "What are we going to do there. Because the problem won’t go away by just waiting. It is not going to go away by stalling, building another high school in that Cary-Apex area."
Goldman pointed to how the middle section of Cary High's campus has been slated for demolition. Haydon said they had held off on the work because they needed to keep the space to house students.
School board chairman Ron Margiotta backed starting the new high school in Apex first saying it would relive crowding at more schools. The site in his district.
Margiotta said in an interview Wednesday that he felt the Panther Creek ninth-grade center would help the crowding there and at Cary High. But he said it won't help Apex High.
Margiotta said accelerating the new school in Apex would help Apex, Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs high schools.
During the July 12 discussion, school board vice chairman John Tedesco argued they should reconsider the whole plan to put money into building schools in Southeast Raleigh.
Tedesco argued they need the additional capacity in Southeast Raleigh as a way to keep the magnet school program viable while still allowing families who live in that area to go to schools near where they live under the new choice plan.
"If you don’t build schools in Southeast Raleigh and you continue with a plan that’s only about proximity and choice, you’re going to limit your magnet seats and not have those seats anymore as an option down the road," Tedesco said. "So if you want to keep your magnet schools and your integration programs and you want to be responsive to parents who want neighborhood schools and proximity, you need to meet some of the capacity needs there now or you’re going to run into bigger problems."
Tedesco said he also wants to look at limiting the number of modular units that can be placed at a school campus and how large a percentage can be placed in non-permanent seats.
“I think it’s ridiculous that some of our schools have 40 to 50 mobile units with 30 percent of our student body in them," Tedesco said.
Also during the recent school board discussion, Goldman questioned why staff is still considering building an elementary school at the former Forest Ridge High site. The site on Forestville Road was originally planned for both a high school and elementary school before the board majority killed the high school in favor of building it in Rolesville.
Staff was told to try to sell the site. School board member Chris Malone argued they should just sell the site and abandon plans for any schools there.
Haydon said they had listed the elementary school, with a projected 2015 opening based on a future bond issue, because they still own the land. Wake could sell most of the site but still keep a small portion for the elementary school.
Margiotta said the three options will be discussed again at Tuesday's work session.
Click here for a PowerPoint showing capacity by region.
Click here for a handout summarizing how they'd fund the three options.
Click here for a handout showing the potential timelines for the three plans.