Blog: Wake school board approves $130M new-schools plan
Posted September 20, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — School board approves new schools: The Wake County Board of Education on Tuesday voted 5-3 in favor of a new school-facilities plan that includes adding both an all-boys and all-girls single-gender leadership academy and converting Hilburn Drive Elementary School in Raleigh to a K-8 facility.
The total $130.3 million package also includes building a new high school near Apex, and a new elementary school near Wake Forest. The projects will be funded by more than $99 million left over from a 2006 school construction bond, and more than $30 million in savings from projects ties to that bond.
The money will also be used to pay for freshman academies and modular classrooms to ease immediate overcrowding and to renovate Cary High School. It will also help fund the design costs of three additional schools.
Before the final vote, board member Dr. Anne McLaurin raised concern about why the board was asked to vote on funding the new leadership academies before ever actually approving the new concept. McLaurin said she wanted to see the board discuss the schools further and vote separately instead of approving both the schools and funding with one vote.
Board member Kevin Hill made a motion to divide the issues and vote on approving the academies and conversion of Hilburn Drive separately from the overall funding. The board denied that motion with 5-4 vote down party lines.
Superintendent Tony Tata said he wanted to keep all the funding bundled together.
McLaurin, Hill and board member Carolyn Morrison voted against the final funding package.
Student assignment plan: Student assignment task force lead James Overman updated the school board on the progress of the current proposed choice-model student assignment plan.
One big change since the last meeting: The task force adjusted some feeder patterns under the new plan based on parent feedback.
Many parents, including some with children who would currently feed into Broughton High School, recently raised concerns about changing that under the new plan.
Overman told the board that all feeder patterns were crafted in a way of ensuring proximity, keeping magnet feeder patterns in tact and linking year-round and traditional calendar schools. Because of the recent concerns, they adjusted feeder patterns back to allow students to remain on some of those same historical tracks.
Overman also reminded the board and parents that students will be grandfathered in to schools and will be allowed to stay put and not make any change if they don't want to under the new choice plan.
More than 12,000 kindergartners will have to fully participate in the new choice plan when they enroll next year. Existing students will have the options to make a new choice or stay put. School system staff say the majority of parents with students already in the school system indicate they will likely stay in their current school next year.
Tata says transportation costs will likely go up at first as they continue to provide busing for students who want to stay at their current schools as well as implementing the new assignment plan. Transportation leaders estimate they will need to buy an additional 15 to 25 buses at $87,000 each to make it work at first.
Tata noted that it will take about five years to make a full transition and says Wake County schools will see significant savings overall once most students are attending schools closer to home.
The task force is on track to finish final details of the plan in time for Tata to present a final plan to the board on Oct. 4.
New schools: Superintendent Tony Tata began Tuesday's meeting with an update on some new schools and facility projects tied to the new student assignment plan.
Because students will be grandfathered in and be allowed to stay in their current school if they want to, Tata says, in a way, they will be implementing two plans at once as they transition into the new assignment plan. Tata said his staff is still working on a final transportation analysis but said costs may go up some at first until they are fully running on the new plan.
Tata's staff presented more detailed information to the board about converting Hilburn Drive Elementary school in Raleigh to a K-8. Wake County public schools posted an online survey last week, asking parents and others in the community for feedback on the proposed change. About 385 people have responded to the survey so far, and staff says most of the responses are positive.
Next, they talked to the board about creating two single-gender Wake leadership academies.
The goal is to create a success-oriented environment, through two new magnet schools that students can apply to attend. The all-male and all-female schools would be tied in with JROTC to offer leadership training.
Tata proposes opening the academies in 2012 to students in grades 6-10, which would likely include about 240 students.
The early-college middle/high school academies would be similar to single-gender academies currently up and running in Greensboro. There, the schools are housed on the campuses of Bennett College and North Carolina A&T University.
Students in high school can also take college courses.
Tata and his staff say they will meet with five local colleges about possible partnerships for the Wake academies. Those schools are: Meredith, Peace, St. Augustine, NC State, and Shaw.
Proposed sites for the two new leadership academies: Boys would be set up at the current Longview school site, that is used right now for students with behavioral problems, and also take courses on one of the partner colleges or universities.
Girls would be set up at the current Pilot Mill site near Peace College and also take courses on one of the partner colleges or universities.
In Greensboro, the per-pupil spending at the single-gender academies nearly doubles the per student spending at traditional Guilford County schools, in part because support staff and administrators serve far fewer students. Tata told the board they do not expect that same spending gap for Wake students because the classes would be larger, and the building would serve more students.
Looking forward, Tata's staff says they are also looking at adding a science academy and a CTE, or career, technical education academy in 2013-2014 school year.
Chief Facilities and Operations Officer Don Haydon talked with the board about what it will cost to start the new innovative schools, and a proposal for other school needs. All of the funds would be money left from a 2006 school bond.
The conversation of Hilburn Drive to a K-8 school would cost about $2.1 million. It would help create needed middle school seats and allow them to delay building a new middle school in that area for now.
Converting the Longview campus to a boys leadership academy would cost about $3.6 million, which includes relocated three other programs to open up the space.
Getting the Pilot Mill site ready for the girls leadership academy would cost about $1.3 million plus a $500 thousand per year lease payment.
That leaves $21.3 million for a new elementary school and $6.2 to pay for some revisions to Cary High School.
Haydon is asking the board to approve a total package of about $130 million that all comes from money left from the 2006 bond, and savings from other places.
In addition to the innovative projects the money would cover building a new elementary school near Wake Forest and a new high school near Apex. It would also fund freshman academies and modular classrooms to help ease some immediate crowding.