Wake County school staff say it would be more cost effective to tear down and rebuild three aging North Raleigh schools than to renovate them.
The school board facilities committee heard design plans last month for York and North Ridge elementary schools and West Millbrook Middle School.
Wake expects to spend $41 million to rebuild West Millbrook Middle, in 2020 at the earliest. That’s $10 million less than Wake would spend to renovate the school, said Sheri Green, director of planning and design for the school system.
Wake staff estimate it would cost $24.4 million to rebuild North Ridge Elementary on Harps Mill Road – the same cost of renovating the school.
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It could cost $27.1 million to rebuild York Elementary School on Brookhaven Drive. That’s $6 million more than it would cost to renovate the school, but staff say it wouldn’t be an effective use of money to make repairs.
It’s unclear when construction would begin, but plans for all three schools include ways to improve traffic flow.
Under the West Millbrook plan, buses could park at a large lot during the day, and the design would ease the current carpool traffic jams on Strickland Road, said principal Kelly Aman.
Once, she said, the carpool line blocked an ambulance from getting into a homeowner’s driveway.
“It extends about two miles down the road toward Six Forks Road, and parents have created their own private carpool behind our school,” Aman said.
Near North Ridge Elementary, drivers regularly stop or park on neighborhood streets; a new configuration would keep cars and buses separate and on campus, Green said.
A new building would eliminate a mishmash of structures built between the 1960s and 2000 and eliminate doors in many classrooms that lead directly outside and create safety issues, Green said.
Plans for a rebuilt York Elementary include a new road that would run through a city park, alleviating traffic on neighborhood streets and making the best use of a topographically complicated lot.
Funding, swing space unclear
Funding currently isn’t available to rebuild North Ridge and York elementary schools and West Millbrook Middle.
The county commissioners could decide to put a bond referendum on the November ballot or opt to borrow a smaller amount of money without voter approval.
Even when the projects get funded, Wake must figure out where students would attend school during construction.
When schools are renovated, students often use “swing space” – mobile units or an off-campus site.
A swing space on Spring Forest Road could serve North Ridge students, but there is no space close enough to York, Green said.
Green said perhaps a new swing space could serve both York and Stough Elementary, which will be rebuilt.
“If we have to set up a modular campus, we really need to have the advantage of two different schools being able to use that to make it a benefit for the cost,” Green said.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi