RALEIGH — Plans for a new career and technical education high school moved forward Monday although relations remained strained between the Wake County Board of Commissioners and school board.
The commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding in which it would lease the former Coca-Cola bottling facility in South Raleigh and renovate it for opening for the 2014-15 school year. But commissioners, who’ve demanded that the school board commit to the program for at least seven years, grumbled about the slow pace on the project.
“We’re at least moving down the road,” said Paul Coble, chairman of the board of commissioners. “It’s like moving molasses on a refrigerator wall in the dead of winter.”
Both commissioners and school board members have been supportive of creating the county’s first high school dedicated to teaching technical skills that students can use to get jobs after graduation. Until recently, it would have been called a vocational school although school leaders now object to the use of that term.
Despite the support, the high school has been caught up in the controversy over last month’s firing of Schools Superintendent Tony Tata. The Republican majority on the board of commissioners had been among Tata’s boosters.
After Tata’s firing, Coble wrote a blistering letter to school board chairman Kevin Hill in which he criticized the Democratic school board leadership and postponed joint meetings on scheduling the next school construction bond issue. As part of the letter, Coble wanted resolutions from the school board to operate, for at least the next seven years, the new technical high school and a new boys-only school in a former county building.
“I believe the Board supports both programs in the long-term, which would be at least seven years,” Hill wrote to Coble in a response letter dated Wednesday.
Hill also noted that the school board will hold a public hearing Tuesday on the new technical high school and on housing the Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy in downtown Raleigh.
The new high school would train students in fields such as plumbing, automobile collision repair, refrigeration, cosmetology and biopharmaceuticals. Under a partnership with Wake Technical Community College, students would be able to graduate with a high school diploma and enough college credits for a certificate.
The school would serve 700 high school students and 1,000 Wake Tech students who would use the building, at 2200 S. Wilmington St., on nights and weekends.
Funding has been a main stumbling block with neither the school system nor Wake Tech coming up with the estimated $28 million needed to cover leasing, renovations and eventual purchase of the former Coca-Cola bottling facility. Pending a purchase now set for 2020, the county will lease and upgrade the building under the deal that won preliminary approval on Monday. A final vote is set for Nov. 19.“I think this is a great project, and I think the whole board thinks it’s a great project,” said Commissioner Joe Bryan.