Freshman campus proposed for Panther Creek High upsets parents
Posted February 10, 2012
Updated February 17, 2012
Cary, N.C. — Parents of Panther Creek High School freshmen are protesting plans to move the students from the school's campus to an office building 20 minutes away.
So-called ninth-grade centers aren't new to Wake County, where the school district uses them to relieve overcrowding and to help students transition from middle school to high school. Other high schools have used former middle schools and elementary schools as ninth-grade centers, and the district even converted a former supermarket in Wake Forest into a ninth-grade center for Wakefield High School.
Panther Creek High parents said they thought their ninth-graders would be put in mobile units at Alston Ridge Elementary School, which is about 2 miles up N.C. Highway 55 from the high school.
On Tuesday, the Wake County Board of Education approved a six-year lease to house the school's ninth-grade center at a Morrisville office building. The vote was taken behind closed doors because it involved a real estate transaction, and parents weren't given advance notice.
"We had no time to do outside investigation, ask questions, investigate the site. We had no time to get input from the community," school board member Susan Evans said.
The board also voted to buy an old movie theater in Garner and convert it into the ninth-grade center for Garner Magnet High School. That move hasn't generated any opposition since the theater is only two minutes away from the school.
"Proximity is very important when you're talking about a ninth-grade center because (students) do get shipped back and forth," said Cindy Sinkez, whose child will be freshman at Panther Creek High next fall.
Her older daughter was in a ninth-grade center at Green Hope High School, which she said was less than 2 miles from the school.
"My daughter ate lunch on the bus on the way back to the high school so she could take her band class, and she had another advanced class, so she spent half of her time on one campus (and) half of her time on the other campus," Sinkez said.
Parents said shuttling students to advanced classes and afternoon activities will be difficult when the ninth-grade center is so far away. A round trip between the high school and the office building – it's on Pleasant Grove Church Road, off Interstate 540 near Raleigh-Durham International Airport – is almost 20 miles.
"It doesn't make sense. I don't know who came up with this idea, but it seems to me they haven't considered all of these things," said Daphne Dodson, whose son attends Panther Creek High and whose daughter will be a freshman there in the fall.
Dodson said she knows some school board members hadn't even seen the office building, which she says is near a beer distributor's warehouse, before they voted Tuesday.
"I understand that Panther Creek is crowded," she said, "but you don't make a decision like this without getting the community involved," she said.
Noureen Meyer said she learned about the board's vote from her daughter.
"Our ninth-graders are going to be at a disadvantage. They're not going to have access to all the resources at the main campus," Meyer said. "There's no way they're going to be able to participate like other regular children on the campus in after-school clubs and activities. I don't know what they're going to do about advanced classes. It's just not fair."
Superintendent Tony Tata and Board of Education Chairman Kevin Hill said they're open to revisiting the issue at the next school board meeting.
"We’ve listened to parent feedback. We’ll probably take a look at the Panther Creek ninth-grade center," Tata said.