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Wake School Board, Commissioners Look For Ways To Make Repairs, Upgrades

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WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — A study of

Wake County schools

shows that about 11 percent are in poor condition, but officials say if nothing is done to repair and maintain schools, that number jumps to 90 percent in 10 years. School board members and county commissioners are putting their heads together to figure out how to pay for repairs and new schools in the next four years.

Martin Middle School is one of the schools on Wake County's wish list to be updated into the 21st century.

"The ones that we are targetting in our next building program were built in the 1950s. They're a half a century old. They have the same heating/cooling systems. The same electrical and plumbing and these systems need to be torn out and replaced," said Christina Lighthall, of Wake County schools.

Officials say updating schools is one piece of the puzzle; the other is building new schools. Wake County currently has 104,000 students. With 3,000 new students coming in every year, it is projected by 2020, there will be close to 160,000 students.

"You have a county that's growing by 3,000 people every year and you have a place to put those children, they're there," said Herb Council, chairman of Wake County commissioners.

Right now, Wake County has 544 mobile classrooms. Officials say they want to reduce that number by nearly 150. To do that, they have to build 16 new schools by 2008.

The Wake County school board and county commissioners are trying to come up with a price tag people can swallow. In November, they will ask voters to support a bond referendum to pay for the plan.

"We want all children to have the same opportunity that children have who live in newer sections of the county where they have new school buildings built. I hope voters will see that need as we present the plan to them," said Kathryn Quigg, chairwoman of the Wake County School Board.

It is estimated the bonds could cost anywhere from $600 million to $900 million and that money would fund renovations and building through 2008. Wake County voters ovewhelmingly supported a $550 million school bond issue in 2000.


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