Wake County Schools

Wake schools work on expansion wish list

Posted August 14, 2012 7:42 a.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2012 6:09 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— Wake County school district leaders on Tuesday afternoon continued the delicate process of trying to develop a bond referendum that would help pay for new schools needed to ease crowding in the district.

The nearly five-hour work session didn't result in a vote, but it did provide more insight into how leaders hope to move forward with plans to build 24 news schools and renovate 28 existing schools over the next four years. 

In 2011-12, 77 schools in the county were above capacity while 44 schools were below 90 percent enrollment. Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata says the new student assignment plan decreases those numbers, but it doesn't end the need for new space. 

Rapid growth is expected to continue across the district, with an estimated 4,000 new students expected to join the system each year from 2012-13 to 2016-17. Construction of an elementary school costs around $25 million and a high school comes with a $75 million price tag, district leaders said.

"West Cary is obviously an area where we do not have the capacity we need," Tata said. "Downtown Raleigh, we have capacity issues."

A bond referendum for school construction and renovation could appear on the Wake County ballot as early as May.

"The needs will probably require some tax increases, and we do have to be very responsible in recognizing that we can't put together too big of a bond," Wake County school board member Jim Martin said. "But likewise, it can't be too small of a bond."

School board committee members said their initial plans are to prepare for a worst-case scenario. They said they realize more discussion is needed before they make final recommendations on how many schools to build and how many to renovate.