A Wake County school board committee recommended today abandoning a high school site in northeast Raleigh in favor of looking at two alternatives in Rolesville, even after being warned that the delay could lead to $15.5 million in extra costs.
The facilities committee members, made up mostly of members of the new school board majority, said that theyre following up on their campaign promise to abandon the Forest Ridge High School site. They said they have to consider more than just the additional costs that administrators said could emerge from switching school sites at this stage.
We have to do whats right for the community, not just dollars and cents, said new school board member Chris Malone, chairman of the facilities committee. People need to know we meant what we said.
Malone pointed to how residents near Forest Ridge High, located on Forestville Road near U.S. 401, are concerned about the traffic implications of the school. Traffic is already congested with the presence of another high school two miles away on Forestville Road.
The new board majority had made stopping work on Forest Ridge High one of its first actions at the Dec. 1 meeting.
School administrators said pursuing the two sites in Rolesville would mean delaying the opening of the new high school by two years to 2014.
Joe Desormeaux, assistant superintendent for facilities, said that it could cost $10 million to acquire and locate new classroom trailers to deal with overcrowding caused by the delay.
Don Haydon, chief facilities and operations officer, said delaying the school would mean having to deal with overcrowding at Knightdale High School.
Haydon said not going with Forest Ridge would also lead to crowding delays for elementary school in northern Wake.
Administrators had planned that once Forest Ridge opened in 2012 to stop using one or more of the off-campus ninth-grade centers used by Wakefield and Wake Forest-Rolesville high schools. The ninth-grade centers would have been used to temporarily house elementary students.
Desormeaux also said that construction costs could go up $4 million from inflation from delaying work and another $1.5 million from drawing up new designs.
School board member Anne McLaurin, a member of the facilities committee and part of the board minority, said shes not wedded to the Forest Ridge location. But she said she couldnt back recommending dropping the site until she knows how theyll come up with the money to pay for the delay.
The money could come from an $18 million reserve fund in the current school building program.
Malone said that the cost estimates from staff may be too high.
The sites the new board members want explored in Rolesville were suggested by Mayor Frank Eagles. One property is on U.S. 401 near Louisbury Road and the other is a tract near Rolesville and Fowler roads.
Those two sites suggested by Eagles were among the five alternatives reviewed by a task force of 19 people from municipal, county, state and school staff.
The task force had warned last month it would be more expensive and lead to delays to drop the Forest Ridge site. But members of the new board majority began to immediately question the findings of the group.
Task force members conceded that they had overestimated the cost for the tract on Rolesville and Fowler roads by not including a sewer line that was on the site. But Desoremeaux, who served on the task force, said the reduced cost for that parcel didnt change the groups recommendations.
The full board could vote on the issue next week