Elementary school delayed

Garner's mayor calls Wake action to redirect money sad but not bad thing

Staff WritersApril 16, 2008 

Elected officials and community activists in Garner aren't upset about the Wake County school board decision on Tuesday to delay the opening of Bryan Road, a new elementary school that has become mired in controversy.

"The citizens should be happy," said Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams. "It's sad to lose a school, but I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing."

Garner's Board of Aldermen had delayed permit approval last week on Bryan Road Elementary School, saying they were concerned that the school district would assign too many poor students from outside the town to the school. That prompted a protest from Southeast Raleigh activists who complained that Garner's opposition to poor students amounted to a slap at black students.

School officials said they weren't delaying the new school to appease or punish Garner. Instead, they said, the informal vote to pull the funding for Bryan Road and another elementary school in Wake Forest is because of slowing growth among young students.

But others took it that way.

"It was retribution for the town questioning their assignment policies," said Wake Commissioner Tony Gurley. "I don't know how else you can take that."

Gurley warned that commissioners -- who must approve any reallocation of the bond money -- might reject the school board's action.

The plan would redirect $50 million in savings from the two schools to other projects. High on the list for the money are costly renovations at Wake Forest-Rolesville High School.

Bryan Road was scheduled to open in 2009. The new school in Wake Forest was supposed to open in 2010. Although voters approved the funding as part of a 2006 bond issue, it would appear again in the next bond issue.

School administrators said Tuesday that they would like the next bond issue to take place in May 2009. The earliest those two new schools could be built now would likely be 2011.

Paul Capps, a spokesman for Advocates for Greater Garner, a group of community and business leaders, seconded Williams in saying it's not a great loss if Bryan Road is delayed.

"We just feel it's not the right time to build the school," Capps said. "They need to use the money for schools that need it now."

Octavia Rainey, a Southeast Raleigh activist, said Garner had placed unfair conditions on the school system.

"I'm glad the school system is saying 'You want to play your game? Pull the school. Conversation over,' " Rainey said.

Rainey and several other local African-American leaders met Tuesday with Williams to discuss busing and schools in Garner.

Additionally, school administrators said they were on a tight timetable to get both new schools open on schedule, complicated further by Garner holding up permit approval.

The Wake Forest school, off Capital Boulevard, was supposed to test the idea of a developer building a school and then leasing it back to the district.

School board member Lori Millberg said, "They're [Garner] the ones who are saying they don't need it right now."

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4534

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