Wake school board abandons site for new high school

Posted February 16, 2010 8:44 a.m. EST
Updated February 17, 2010 3:30 p.m. EST

— Wake County school board members voted 5-4 Tuesday to abandon a proposed site for what's expected to be the district's largest high school and to pursue land deals on two other potential sites.

The move could cost the school system an additional $15.4 million and delay the opening of the new school, known as H-6, by as much as two years, to 2014, board members heard Tuesday.

Concerns about traffic congestion, cost overruns and safety prompted the board in December to stop work on the tentatively named Forest Ridge High School, near the intersection of Forestville Road and U.S. Highway 401.

The school board will now look at two other sites – one at U.S. 401 and Louisbury Road and another at Rolesville and Quarry roads northeast of Raleigh.

About $1.5 million of the anticipated $15.4 million in additional costs would go toward due diligence and design-site adaptations.

Another $3.9 million would cover an estimated 5 percent cost inflation for construction and other physical needs for the school; and $10 million would be needed to house students in mobile classrooms while the new school is under construction, school system staff told board members.

The board also voted 4-3 to ask Rolesville, Wake Forest, Raleigh, Knightdale and Wake County – municipalities served by the school – to pay a combined amount of approximately $7 million to help offset costs in abandoning the Forestville Road site.

During a meeting of the board’s Committee of the Whole Tuesday, some board members said that $15.4 million is too much, considering budgetary concerns – such as teacher and employee layoffs and the inability to purchase textbooks and other school supplies.

Board member Keith Sutton said the school board has the responsibility to open schools with the least amount of spending in the least amount of time.

"I don't think anyone around the table feels like the H-6 site is that sexy," he said, wanting to know if there were other options – such as widening the two-lane Forestville Road – that would make other board members happy with the current proposed site.

"This is the wrong site," board member Chris Malone said. "It should never have been approved in the first place. This is beyond the conversation of money."

Other board members said that although they don't want to spend more money than necessary, the high school is a long-term investment and another site is something that seriously needs to be considered.

The $74 million high school is expected to hold about 2,200 students.