Like astronauts on the moon, Wake County politicians used gold shovels on Thursday to claim a field in western Cary as a construction site for the town’s next high school.
Members of the Wake County school board and Cary Town Council as well as the Wake County commissioners’ chairman gathered Thursday morning for a ceremonial groundbreaking event at 7612 Roberts Road, where the school district plans to open a new $74 million high school facility in 2017.
In its first year of operation, the new Cary facility will be used by Apex High School as the district renovates its campus on Laura Duncan Road. The district plans to spend $8 million to demolish and rebuild about 33,000 square feet of the current Apex High facility, which was built in 1975.
In 2018, Apex High is expected to move back home, and the facility will open as Green Level High School – the fourth high school in Cary along with Cary High, Green Hope High and Panther Creek High.
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With sapling pines to their left and sketches of the Green Level facility to their right, school board leaders noted how the forthcoming school will address a need for more education space in an area that’s growing rapidly.
“Apex High needs renovation, and Panther Creek (High) is overcrowded,” said Christine Kushner, chairwoman of the school board. “This is going to help us alleviate both of those issues – not as fast as some of us would like – but as quickly as we can get it done.”
West Cary, which is generally considered to be the area west of N.C. 55, is home to most of the town’s last remaining swaths of land. Residential development has increased dramatically in the wake of the recession.
As a result, four schools in west Cary – Mills Park Elementary, Mills Park Middle, Davis Drive Middle and Panther Creek High – are crowded and will have enrollment caps during the 2015-16 school year.
Green Level, a four-story building that will hold 2,200 students, will open initially to freshmen and sophomores only but is expected to reach full capacity by the time it serves ninth through 12th grades, said school board member Bill Fletcher, who represents most of Cary.
Green Level High will serve as a tribute to the community around the intersection of Green Level Church Road and Green Level West Road for which it was named, he said.
The name Green Level, once known for its tobacco fields, will soon be home to “one of those schools that is a shining star,” Fletcher said.
Green Level is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because much of the landscape and architecture still stands as it did when erected in the early 1900s, said Susan Evans, who represents part of Cary on the school board.
“Our high schools become communities within themselves and a center-point for the communities in which they are located,” Evans said. “I know that in a very short time, Green Level High School will establish itself its legacy as a vital part of this community.”