The Wake County school system wants to spend $9.2 million during the next decade to lease properties in Wake Forest and Cary that school leaders say will be used to house innovative high school programs.
School leaders say they need more space to offer programs for students who don’t think traditional high schools meet their needs and for teens who have been suspended from school. One option for offering those programs is to extend a lease for a former supermarket in Wake Forest, and the other is to lease more space next to the district’s headquarters in Cary.
On Monday, school administrators asked the Wake County Board of Commissioners for permission to lease both properties. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the leases on Jan. 19. The leases also need state approval.
“I’m glad you brought it forward,” said commissioner Betty Lou Ward. “It’s exciting and different.”
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The district has made coming up with new kinds of high school programs more of a priority as it tries to reach the goal of having a 95 percent graduation rate by 2020. Cathy Moore, Wake’s deputy superintendent for academic advancement, told commissioners the school district wants to personalize the learning that high school students receive.
For $5.2 million over the next 10 years, the district wants to continue leasing the former Winn-Dixie supermarket at 931 Durham Road in Wake Forest. The renovated 52,474-square-foot building has been used as the ninth-grade center for nearby Wakefield High School since 2007.
Betty Parker, the district’s senior director of real estate services, said Wakefield will likely continue to use the site for another school year while the staff determines what new “innovative high school program” would be placed there.
More details were provided about the district’s plans to spend $4 million over the next 10 years to lease 21,756 square feet at 5651 Dillard Drive in Cary.
One use for the new space involves the creation of a high school program that offers flexible hours during which students could come in for a mix of online courses and face-to-face instruction. Moore said the district wants to increase flexibility for students who need different learning options.
An additional use for the new space would be as an “alternative learning center hub” to educate students who’ve received long-term suspensions of more than 10 days. School officials say they can also use the space to provide “wraparound services,” such as counseling, to those students and their families.
“We need to work with the factors that got them long-term suspended in the first place,” Moore said.
Moore said the Cary site could become a model for expanding the programs elsewhere in the district.
Also on Monday, the commissioners approved deals to purchase sites for two new elementary schools. One site is near Honeycutt and Piney Grove-Wilbon roads in Holly Springs, and the other is at Little and Davis drives in Morrisville.