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Some Wake schools have little space for new students

Population growth and enrollment spikes have frequently pushed Wake County students into trailers. But, even that space won't be available for nearly 500 new students at Panther Creek High School in Cary when classes begin Monday.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Finding space for 5,000 new students will be a challenge when traditional-calendar Wake County schools start next Monday.

Three new elementary schools will help handle the growth, but the problems in high schools will be greater.

While four high schools will be at least 300 students under capacity, seven will have more than 100 students more than they were built to accommodate. See a list of high schools that are above and below capacity.

Panther Creek High School in Cary will face the biggest challenge when it opens with 487 new students this fall.

Two years ago, Panther Creek was built with a capacity of 1,600 students, but its enrollment keeps going up, as do new homes in northwest Cary.

"Twenty-two hundred kids is what they're predicting," teacher Jennifer Dean said.

Extra trailers ordered by the Wake County Public School System, though, will not be in place on Monday to accommodate the hundreds of new students at Panther Creek. Teachers said they will have to get creative with space to do their jobs.

"I think they've talked about using the hallways in some areas, around the cafeteria and the gym," Dean said.

"It does bother me a little bit, concerns me," Dana Rando, the parent of a Panther Creek student, said. "I would like to think that since it's a new school, they would be prepared at this point in time."

WCPSS officials said they have run into issues getting a permit from the Town of Cary. The permit is required to add the 22 mobile classrooms to the high school.

Cary officials said the increase in students will mean an increase in traffic, so a traffic study must be done before the modular units can be installed. That study is set to be done in September, and depending on its findings, the trailers will be installed in October or November.

Wake County School Board member Ron Margiotta said district officials were late in applying for the permit. Cary received the application in mid-May.

"We knew this growth was going to be here two years ago," Margiotta said. "It's just indicative of the large school  systems that can't get their job done properly."

Cary officials said the town was making all possible efforts to support the school system.

Panther Creek's principal and vice-principals were unavailable for comment.