The initial list of Wake County school construction needs is out for consideration in the next school capital improvement program and bond issue.
As noted in today's article, staff will lay out at today's school board facilities committee meeting that 24 new schools are needed over the next four years. That includes 14 new elementary schools, three middle schools, five regular high schools, the CTE high school and an alternative school.
They've also listed 12 whole campus renovations that will essentially mean rebuilding those schools, 16 partial campus school renovations, various life-cycle projects and assorted support and athletic facilities.
"This isn’t the final list,” said Don Haydon, the school system’s chief facilities and operations officer. “This is to get the conversation started. It’s one way to look at the data.”
One conversation starter could be that the 24 new schools assumes they'll all open on a traditional calendar.
One way to reduce the number of new schools is to put more schools on a year-round calendar, including opening new schools on that calendar and converting existing schools. Considering the tumult in 2006, it's uncertain how much the school board wants to revisit that issue.
Of the whole-school renovations, only Wiley Elementary is inside the Raleigh Beltline. The other ITB schools were addressed in prior construction programs.
Five of the big renovations are in North Raleigh. Two are in Garner. Two are in Fuquay-Varina. One is in Apex and the other in Eastern Wake.
Most of the big renovations are for schools built in the 1950s through the 1970s.
The support and athletic facilities projects could be a harder sell.
For instance, staff wants more than $30 million to build four regional bus transportation centers. Haydon said having the centers, instead of one location for major maintenance, would increase maintenance capacity and increase efficiency.
Staff also lists upgrades to Athens Drive High School's stadium, which could cost $1 million to $7 million. The Athens Drive boosters have hired a lawyer and threatened to sue if repairs aren't made to the system.
The lists also includes $10 million to $30 million to build a regional athletic stadium or complex. The complex could hold all or some combo of basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, football, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, track and field and band performances/competitions.
Haydon said the regional complex is being added to the list to see if there's any interest.
Some people have suggested that Wake build regional athletic facilities that high schools could share instead of having their own
If the decision is made for a spring bond referendum, Haydon said the school board would need to sign off on the final list of projects in December with the commissioners doing so in January.
In addition to the timing of the referendum, the amount has to be set.
School board member Chris Malone, chair of the facilities committee, said that it has to be “more modest” that the $970 million bond issue approved in 2006.
“I don’t believe we can sell a $970 million bond,” Malone said. “I wouldn’t support that amount.”
But Malone said he doesn't expect they'll be able to avoid raising property taxes to pay for school construction needs.
Commissioner Joe Bryan said the commission will likely ask that the potential $1 billion-plus price tag be divided into more than one bond.
“It’d be nicer to look at what we have to do over a three- or-four-year period,” Bryan said. “It needs to be reasoned and measured.”
With a penny increase in the property tax rate worth about $120 million, an increase of three or four cents could supply a portion of the projects that would be requested.