The Wake County school system might partner with the YMCA of the Triangle in an effort to improve education for the large number of academically struggling students in Southeast Raleigh.
The YMCA wants to turn the former flea market off Rock Quarry Road near Interstate 40 into a campus that would include a new elementary school and Y facility, affordable housing, a health-care center and possibly a grocery store.
Organizers say providing a high-quality education is one part of this new effort to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty in one of Raleigh’s historically lowest-income areas.
Project leaders told a school board committee Monday they hope the district will join in the effort to provide Southeast Raleigh students with a comprehensive education from 6 weeks old through college.
“What we hope is that our school partner will be able to accommodate all of those children who are going through that early childhood pipeline on into elementary school,” said Kia Baker, director of the Southeast Raleigh Promise Project, which is leading the effort.
“Follow them in middle school, follow them on in high school and maybe to Wake Tech or one of our local colleges and universities,” Baker said.
The model under consideration has been used by other communities, including Atlanta and the Renaissance West project in Charlotte.
Wake school administrators, who have been working with the YMCA to develop the project, presented test data Monday showing how academically far behind Southeast Raleigh children are from the rest of the county.
Fewer than 30 percent of elementary school students living in Southeast Raleigh passed state reading and math exams in the 2014-15 school year. Meanwhile, the countywide passing rate for each exam was in the high 60s. The gap continued through to high school.
“The academic proficiency is markedly lower, so there is a need to do some targeted work and an opportunity with those students,” said Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore.
In November, the YMCA of the Triangle purchased the former Watson’s Flea Market as the hub for the new Southeast Raleigh project. The YMCA reached out to different community groups, including the school system, to become partners.
As part of the proposed “cradle to college education,” the school district may build a joint elementary school/YMCA building that would be shared by both groups. Amenities would include a gym beyond what Wake would provide and a swimming pool, which is not part of the elementary school model.
Moore said the district already had been planning to look for another elementary school site in that part of Raleigh. If approved, the school could open in 2019.
Moore said staff is working on how the system would follow the students from the elementary school to help provide them support through middle school and high school.
While many of the details still need to be worked out, school board members used words like “thrilled” and “inspired” to discuss the proposed joint project.
“We’ve talked about lots and lots of innovative things, but this is one of the most exciting things I’ve listened to in some time,” said school board member Kevin Hill.