Wake County school administrators backtracked Tuesday, acknowledging that they had received an offer of free land for a modular school in the Wakefield area.
Officials are now reviewing the 14.4-acre parcel, near Wakefield Crossing Drive and Queensland Road. They want to see whether it can house the modular school instead of a more distant site at the DuBois Center in Wake Forest.
Administrators warned that concerns about conditions on the Wakefield property and the need to have the school in place by August might make it unusable.
"The big concern is time," said Don Haydon, associate superintendent for auxiliary services. "Can we get anything in place in time?"
Finding a closer site to Wakefield has been an issue since administrators Friday proposed reassigning 2,177 students this fall.
The proposal includes moving 150 Wakefield Elementary students to a modular school at the DuBois Center for two years. The students would then go to Forest Pines Drive Elementary School, a new school to be opened in Wakefield in 2007.
Wakefield parents have raised several concerns about the move, including how long it would take to travel to DuBois, and the safety of the area around the community center.
Both school administrators and Wakefield Development Co., which is developing the Wakefield Plantation subdivision, say they looked at the Wakefield Crossing location four months ago. They said that they were talking only about a lease at the time and that talks ended when Clint Jobe, the school district's director for real estate services, said the site wasn't usable.
But Monday morning, Wakefield Development again contacted Jobe and offered this time to give that land free.
'Proximity is the issue'
Monday afternoon, Jobe denied being offered the land. He said Tuesday that he was referring to not getting an offer months ago.
Haydon, Jobe's boss, said he didn't learn of the latest offer until Tuesday morning.
Even though Wake is looking at the land, Kristin Wood, a school district spokeswoman, said officials are still concerned that it is within 400 feet of a high-voltage power line, the land might not provide enough parking spaces, and it could be expensive clearing the wooded area.
But Wakefield parent Robert Woodward called it "fiscal malfeasance" to spend up to $43,400 a year for three years to lease DuBois when the school system can clear the Wakefield land instead. He said Wake would be wise to take the deal.
"Proximity is the issue," Woodward said. "People like to be able to have a very short distance for their children to travel to school."
John Myers, president of Wakefield Development, acknowledged that time is short but said the modular school could still open on site in time on the Wakefield site.
"I would hope the school board would be willing to reconsider the situation in the interests of coming up with an equitable solutions for all sides," he said.
Staff writer T. Keung Hui can be reached at 829-4534 or firstname.lastname@example.org.