Last week, the Wake County Board of Education awarded a contract to turn a former movie theater into a ninth-grade center for a crowded Garner High School. But it’s unlikely the center will open in the fall as planned.
Beau Chene Co. LLC won the $5.6 million contract to turn the vacant theater on Spring Street into a freshman center. It will have 34 learning spaces – 12 in the former movie theater and 22 in classroom modules in the theater’s parking lot.
But the project has been slow in coming together. Joe Desormeaux, the school system’s assistant superintendent for facilities, now thinks the freshman center will be ready in December or January, not in August, as school leaders had hoped.
“I’m guessing they’ll be a little extra cramped,” Desormeaux said of students on the Garner High campus. “They’ll have to do a workaround for the first semester.”
On paper, Garner High has enough desks and classroom space to accommodate 2,600 students, almost 200 more than the record number on campus now, said principal Drew Cook.
“Our concern has not been lack of class space but infrastructure: size of hallways, cafeterias, parking lots, access and egress to campus, the media center, administrative office space – all those kinds of things,” Cook said. “Things that don’t expand when you bring on new classrooms.”
Cook and his staff are working on a trio of contingency plans. One assumes the center will open in August as originally planned, while another assumes a December/January opening. The last scenario assumes the freshman center will not be ready at all during the 2013-14 school year.
Cook said opening the freshman center in midyear would be the biggest challenge.
“And I’m sure that there will be all kinds of pitfalls that we’re not aware of right now,” he said.
“Obviously my preference would be to have that thing ready to go Aug. 26.”