Wake County schools seeking design award for Rolesville High School

Posted by T. Keung Hui on October 23, 2013 

The Wake County school system is looking to win design awards for three school projects, including the much-debated Rolesville High School that became a part of the recent school construction bond fight.

Last week, the school board approved these requests to apply for the North Carolina School Boards Association’s Award for Excellence in Architectural Design for Rolesville High, Rolesville Middle School and the rebuilt Lacy Elementary School in Raleigh. The awards were requested by the designers of the project.

During the recent bond campaign, critics had gone after the $75 million Rolesville High that opened in August.

For instance, East Wake Republican Club board member David Cozart called Rolesville High a monument to architectural achievement in a press release opposing the bond issue. It wasn’t meant to be complimentary reference.

Ed Jones, chairman of the Wake County Taxpayers Association, called Rolesville High “a great Taj Mahal palace.”

Rolesville High was Wake’s first use of a prototype which has unusual features such as walls of floor-to-ceiling windows that bring in more daylight and look out on courtyards at the front and rear of the school. A gymnasium and auditorium are located in a wing on the school’s first floor, and the cafeteria is divided into four units, with one located on each floor of the school.

The separate cafeterias are part of the design to convert the school into 16 separate pods, called small learning communities. This is new in Wake; each pod consists of a group of five classrooms where students will spend at least part of the day with the same group of classmates.

To promote working in projects and groups, there are no hallways. The classrooms open into common areas where students can work, including the individual cafeterias that in the past would see little use beyond serving meals.

When the cost was questioned, school officials pointed back to Rolesville High being the first use of the new 2,200-student, four-story prototype.

Back during the 2006 school bond fight, the $23 million renovation for Lacy Elementary became part of the dialogue. Critics questioned spending so much to rebuild Lacy, which cost as much as building a brand-new school.

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