The Wake County school board voted last week to reallocate money to fund the design work of a future Garner Middle School.
Wake County Public School System will reallocate $2.6 million from the 2006 school building program to design Bryan Road Middle School in Garner, as well as a middle school in Cary and high school in Fuquay-Varina.
It was initially suspected that there wouldn’t be enough money to fund the design work for both middle schools.
School board members were initially going to have to choose between funding the design work for a Cary middle school or Garner middle school.
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Any of the schools not picked for fast-tracking will still be part of the next building program, school leaders said.
But some Garner officials became alarmed that Bryan Road might not get the same priority for opening as the new middle school in Cary. Schools that get design money this year are more likely to be built first than those designed later.
Last week, facilities staff said they were leaning toward the Cary site because middle school crowding was greater there than in Garner. But after some board members raised concerns, staff said they’d come back this week with information on whether they could fund both middle school designs now.
Residents in Garner and council members have been lobbying for a new middle school in the town. Some say they’d prefer a new middle school before a new elementary school.
Dawn Bailey, a Garner resident and mother of a first-grade student, was one of three parents who spoke during pubic comment at the school board meeting to support a Garner middle school.
“I understand that there are many towns and cities that need new schools,” Bailey said, “I’m just concerned Garner tends to take a back-burner sometimes to towns that are more affluent.”
Jaye Hinch, a Garner mom, said much relief is needed at the two Garner middle schools.
“As Ms. Bailey stated, we have only two middle schools, and that has been the case for at least 30 years,” Hinch said.
“Along with South Garner High and Bryan Road Elementary, this middle school is very much needed to support the growth and population needs of Garner, as well as to bring a resource to Garner to help improve our test scores and school rankings.
School board member Jim Martin also said that, based on student achievement in southeastern Wake compared to northwestern Wake, he’d prefer to put the design money first into Bryan Road in Garner.
Fortunately for school board members, they didn’t have to decide between the two. Wake administrators found the money to fund both before the vote.
“These are just projects that we wanted to get into the design phase, so as soon as we have funding available for our next building program, we will be able to get started on those very quickly,” board member Susan Evans said.
School and county facilities staff have been laying the groundwork for a new school-construction program that could exceed $1 billion. Wake’s school building programs have traditionally been largely funded by obtaining voter backing for borrowing.
But it’s unclear whether the Wake County Board of Commissioners will put a school construction bond referendum on the ballot in 2016 or seek some other means for borrowing the money. David Neter, the school system’s chief business officer, said he and Superintendent Jim Merrill will begin holding a series of meetings on funding with Wake County Manager Jim Hartmann and Deputy County Manager Johnna Rogers.
T. Keung Hui contributed to this story