Wake County school leaders want to tear down and rebuild Stough Elementary School, but it’s unclear how the project will be funded and where students will attend class during construction.
Some money to rebuild Stough, a magnet school, was included in the $810 million school bond referendum voters approved in 2013. So it’s near the top of the school system’s list of facilities in need of renovations and construction.
In 2008, a review of Stough’s three buildings on Edwards Mill Road showed it needed to be demolished and replaced.
“The community at Stough has been waiting a long time,” said school board member Christine Kushner. “I’m very pleased to see this coming to the table.”
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The school board’s facilities committee recently backed a two-story design for Stough. The 104,000-square-foot building will cost $23 million and serve 644 students. Stough currently enrolls 550 students.
The committee had considered building a larger, more expensive three-story building that would serve more students. But the school sits on only 14 acres – smaller than the 20 acre-plots for most elementary schools in Wake.
Adding significantly more students at Stough would likely worsen existing traffic problems. Carpool and bus traffic causes congestion on Edwards Mill Road, and the State Department of Transportation has said the school must find a way to contain the carpool line to its property.
The smaller model will increase enrollment, but some members of the facilities committee said they had concerns.
“I’m always cautious about not building to capacity, given our growth,” board member Jim Martin said.
Martin said that as land becomes more scarce, especially inside the Beltline, school leaders must think about building higher-density schools under an urban model.
This month, school system staff identified four schools included in the 2013 bond that have not completed renovations – Stough, Vandora Springs Elementary in Garner, East Wake Middle near Knightdale and Apex High.
Staff also identified seven schools in line for major renovations and 16 schools most in need of partial renovations.
The school board will present a new building program to the Wake County Board of Commissioners this spring.
Commissioners will decide whether to put a school bond referendum on the November ballot or borrow money without voter approval. Voters are expected to decide in November whether to approve a half-cent sales tax increase for transit.
Schools across the county are competing for construction projects in the next building program. It’s unlikely all the identified projects will be included, especially since money must also be set aside to build new schools to keep up with growth.
Conn and North Ridge elementary schools in Raleigh and Fuquay-Varina High School are at the top of the list of schools most in need of complete renovations. They are followed by Wiley Elementary, Wendell Elementary, West Millbrook Middle and York Elementary.
When a school undergoes a major renovation, students are often transferred to a temporary space.
But space isn’t readily available inside the Beltline, which raises questions about what to do with students at schools such as Stough, Wiley and Conn elementary schools that are in need of overhauls.
Wake currently has one “swing space” for students on Spring Forest Road in North Raleigh. Green Elementary School is using the space while its building on Six Forks Road is being renovated.
Brooks Elementary is next in line to use the space.
School leaders say the Spring Forest Road site is too far away from schools near downtown, and they are looking for temporary sites to put mobile units.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane recently met with school board members to talk about finding suitable land.
“They were just letting us know their needs so we might be able to help them,” she said.
City staff didn’t immediately know of any potential locations but will research the issue.
“Our real estate and planning people said they would think about it,” McFarlane said, noting that finding such land would be hard because it would have to be cleared but also have water and sewer.
Staff writer Paul A. Specht contributed.
Knopf: 919-829-8955, @tayknopf