New Rolesville high school won't be ready until 2014

Staff writerApril 13, 2010 

— Despite pressure from elected officials to speed up the work, Wake County school administrators said today the earliest they expect to open a new high school in Rolesville is in July 2014.

There have been calls to speed up the work since the new school board majority voted in February to scrap the proposed Forest Ridge High School in northeast Raleigh in favor of alternatives in Rolesville. Administrators had warned that switching sites could cost $15.4 million more and delay the school’s opening by two years to 2014, a timetable they affirmed to school board members today.

“We at this point can’t recommend having it ready by the 2013 school year,” said Joe Desormeaux, assistant superintendent for facilities.

Desormeaux said there are some options that could speed up the new school’s opening by a few months. But he said they don’t think they can accelerate it enough to be ready for the start of the 2013-14 school year.

Wake has historically not opened a school in the middle of the school year. Even if that was the school board’s intention, Don Haydon, the district’s chief facilities officer, said there’s no space available to temporarily house students for a few months until the campus opened in the middle of the year.

“Close isn’t good enough for the start of a school year,” said school board member Kevin Hill, a member of the minority faction.

A speedier opening would help relieve crowding in the fast-growing northeastern part of the county. It could also reduce the amount of money that will be spent on classroom trailers to deal with crowding.

“I’m getting pressure from Rolesville and county commissioners who want it done as fast as possible,” said school board member Chris Malone, a member of the new majority.

Forest Ridge High, located on Forestville Road near U.S. 401, would have had the earliest potential opening date of August 2012. But members of the board majority said they had to side with residents near Forest Ridge who complained about the negative impact of building a high school only two miles away from another high school on Forestville Road.

Critics of the board majority have used the vote to accuse them of wasting money. But board members say they don’t think the cost of using an alternative site will be as much as administrators have warned.

The board majority directed the staff to look at two sites proposed by Rolesville Mayor Frank Eagles. One site is on U.S. 401 near Louisbury Road, and the other site is near Rolesville and Quarry roads.

The school board’s facilities committee has recommended naming the new school as Rolesville High School.

Administrators said they haven’t yet determined which site is the better one. But the said that the school board could agree to buy a site in May or June with county commissioners giving final approval in October.

Also at today’s facilities committee meeting, Malone said he wants to spend the next few meetings studying whether the district can afford to build schools that are so environmentally friendly.

Wake school officials have historically prided how the district is a leader in having “green schools” as part of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. But including features such as daylighting to reduce electric costs and waterless urinals to reduce water use can have higher initial costs.

Malone, the chairman of the facilities committee, said Wake needs to be looking at ways to cut costs in preparation for the next school construction bond issue that could come in 2011 or 2012. or 919-829-4534

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