Local News

Wake School Board Scours County for Land, Help

Posted August 29, 2007 12:35 a.m. EDT
Updated August 29, 2007 10:17 a.m. EDT

— Students are showing up to class in record numbers, and the Wake County Board of Education is worried the land and facilities they need won't be there for them.

The school board is conducting a series of meetings with the county's 12 municipal governments to ask for their help in reserving land for schools.

At a meeting with Raleigh’s City Council on Tuesday night, school board members presented numbers that explain that need.

By 2025, the current student population of 128,072 is expected to double in size to nearly 250,000. That means the county will need at least 45 more elementary schools, 20 middle schools and 17 high schools.

“We’re pretty sure land is going to be a problem,” said Rosa Gill, the school board chairwoman. “If we need additional land inside a municipality, we want them to help us, and we want them to understand why we need those schools.”

The school board is pushing for municipal governments to help them adopt immediate and long-term solutions. It also wants to complete the purchase of a land site inside Raleigh's city limits, the final of three whose purchase was authorized under the most recent bond program.

Longer-term solutions may require new ways of thinking about the problem, school board members said.

“I think we’re going to have to change the way we do business,” school board member Carol Parker said. “We’ll have to do this with less land per school site."

One of the options laid out by the school board is asking developers to set aside land for schools. The school board is also examining a new law that authorizes public-private partnerships in which developers build a school and lease it back to the school system.

School board members said they may experiment once with that method to see if it helps put schools on the ground faster and save money. City Council members said they understand the school board's challenge.

“They don’t approve the building permits or set the budget," said Councilman Russ Stephenson. “They just have to deal with both of those decision-making processes."

The series of meetings by itself is a worthwhile exercise for the school board, Councilman Philip Isley said.

“Communication, obviously, is going to be a very important item going forward, regardless of which municipality they’re working with or if it’s the county,” Isley said. “That’s probably the most critical thing that's going to come out of this series of meetings, is how the school board communicates with everyone else.”

Suggestions made by the Citizens’ Facilities Advisory Committee include building new schools without athletic fields and joint development and use of sites.

The school board is scheduled to meet with other area mayors in September.

Concurrently, Cary’s Town Council is studying how to fund setting aside land for future schools.

Wake County School Growth By the Numbers

Student Population

  • Enrollment has doubled since 1985 from 57,268 to 128,072.
  • It's expected to double again by 2025 and reach 249,672.

Projected Number of New Schools Needed by 2025

  • 45 elementary schools
  • 20 middle schools
  • 17 high schools
  • Total: 82 schools

Mobile Classrooms Currently in Use

  • 680 in elementary schools
  • 219 in middle schools
  • 211 in high schools
  • 8 in alternate schools
  • Total: 1,118