Wake County school leaders are trying to decide whether to tear down a historic gymnasium or continue to pay to upgrade the aging facility.
Rolesville residents built a gymnasium in the 1950s as part of the town’s original high school campus. Now the gym serves Rolesville Elementary School.
School system leaders say knocking down the gym and building a new multipurpose space would give Rolesville Elementary more classroom capacity, create a better traffic pattern for buses and possibly save the school system money in the long run.
But Rolesville leaders say they don’t want the old gym to disappear because of its long history in the growing town.
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Town officials and school staff will begin meeting to work out a compromise that could provide more needed classroom space while addressing concerns, said Tom Benton, vice chairman of the school board.
“As often happens in small towns, town leaders have let us know they have grave concerns about taking this gym down,” Benton said at a May 27 facilities committee meeting.
Wake could spend about $3.1 million to improve the gymnasium.
Currently, the space doesn’t meet federal standards to accommodate people with disabilities. Wake would have to spend $169,000 on improvements to make the space more accessible.
It would cost $352,000 to replace the roof and make other safety and energy upgrades.
Benton said this would not be the only time the school system would put millions of dollars toward the gym’s upkeep.
Keeping the structure might be cheaper up front, he said, but there will be continuing maintenance costs.
It could cost about $5.8 million to demolish the gym and build a multipurpose space, which is the standard design for Wake County elementary schools.
The Rolesville Elementary School gym belonged to the community until it gave the space to the school system, said Mayor Frank Eagles.
“Rolesville was a little bitty town, but the community was large,” Eagles said. “The gym is kind of an icon.”
Town meetings were held in the gym years ago, Eagles said. Now, the town’s parks and recreation department runs its winter basketball program there.
In 2002, the school system put millions of dollars into the gym, Benton said. Improvements were made to the air conditioning unit and the roof, among other repairs.
The school system had considered then, as well as in the 1980s, whether the gym should be torn down. The community swiftly responded, Eagles said.
“The whole community got upset,” he said. “For (some people) who went to school there, it’s the last thing standing.”