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Should Schools Have a Say in New Developments?

Raleigh officials are considering whether the Wake County school board should be allowed to weigh in on large, new developments that are proposed. That's not required now.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh officials are deciding whether it should be mandatory to tell the school system about large, new developments that might be approved. That's not required now.

Wake County public school leaders use information on new housing developments to plan how they will make room for new children. The Raleigh City Council has been discussing whether educators should be given a voice in approving growth in the city.

This past year, Wake County educators projected population growth would add 8,000 new students to area classrooms. In reality, the increase was nearer 6,000.

Chuck Delaney, assistant superintendent for growth and planning with Wake County schools, said sometimes the best administrators can do is make an educated guess.

“You are trying to forecast where will students be, not just for the coming year, but two or three or four years down the road,” he said.

Part of the problem, according to Delaney, is that school leaders are not always informed about where new developments are going or how large they will be. Newly elected Raleigh Councilwoman Nancy McFarlane campaigned to change that.

“To bring the school system in on that planning process would be beneficial to all of us,” she said.

McFarlane proposed that the city council allow school board members to have a voice in any developments larger than 100 dwellings before they are approved. Otherwise, the school system might not have space to serve the children who would live there, Delaney said.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said McFarlane’s proposal doesn't bother him. He said schools must be factored into the equation.

“That makes good sense to me, since schools are so important to housing developments,” Meeker said.

Another Raleigh councilman, Phillip Isley, said he is concerned the proposal allows the school board to steer development in the city

The city council will look at the issue on Jan. 8.

Anne McLaurin, Meeker's wife, was elected to the school board last month as the representative for District 5 in south-central Raleigh.


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