A magnet elementary school in North Hills will undergo a major renovation that includes removing a popular community play area.
The Wake County school board on Tuesday approved a $23 million design for Brooks Elementary that creates more on-site parking and space for carpool lanes. The design also would replace much of the 50-year old-school.
Some residents had voiced concerns about the design because it would require leveling a hill that is a popular destination for families to picnic, sled and play.
Jonathan DeMai grew up in the neighborhood and lives there now with his own family, including a future Brooks student.
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He said residents welcome the renovation but would prefer if the design did not require leveling the hill and cutting down old oak trees.
“It’s viewed as an amenity in the local community,” he said. “This is a really prominent destination.”
Residents have started a petition hoping for a design change, but DeMai said they are not optimistic their ideas will be incorporated into the final plan.
The school is nestled in a residential neighborhood off Northbrook Drive near North Hills Club. Decades ago the neighborhood sat on the outskirts of the city, but today it’s a bustling area with lots of traffic.
The school does not have much property that can be developed.
Principal Felecia Locklear told a school board committee that parking is limited at the school, forcing drivers onto the street nearby.
“We’re just landlocked,” she said. “Parking is huge for us now because of volunteerism and all of the things we have going on.”
School system staff said putting the parking lot on top of the play area is the most effective option because of the site limitations. New play areas would be built on the other side of the school.
In addition to replacing much of the building, the renovation will update a 15-year-old section and include new classrooms, a media center and a multipurpose room.
The design also includes 1,450 square feet of common space at a cost of $272,000. The space is an area for collaborative learning, an idea Wake wants to incorporate into its schools.
The renovation is expected to begin in summer 2016 and take about one year. The school will temporarily move to a modular campus on Spring Forest Road.
The project is part of an $810 million bond package that voters approved in the fall 2013. The package includes renovations and new schools.