Wake County Public School System’s request to keep an eight-classroom mobile unit at Cedar Fork Elementary School to temporarily deal with crowding faced some scrutiny from the Morrisville Town Council Tuesday.
School staff said they need the mobile unit there until at least 2021. Staff hopes to open the new elementary school known as E-50 by the fall of 2019, said Joe Desormeaux, the Wake County school system’s assistant superintendent for facilities.
Land has been bought for the school a few miles northwest of Cedar Fork’s site at 1050 Town Hall Drive. It would serve some of the 1,103 students who now attend Cedar Fork.
The mobile unit has been on the school site since 2014 when the Morrisville Board of Adjustment approved it for three years – the maximum time limit. WCPSS representatives said they knew at the time it would take longer than that three-year time frame before they were prepared to reassign children away from Cedar Fork.
“We, at that point in time, believed there was going to be an elementary school, known now as Hortons Creek Elementary School, to the west that was going to be able to serve the crowding issues at Cedar Fork,” said Kenneth Haywood, an attorney representing WCPSS.
Because of a change in the town’s ordinances, the Wake County school board now needs approval from the council for a special use permit to keep the mobile unit on the site.
“Due to the wonderful growth this community has enjoyed over the past couple years, it far exceeded anything that our planners anticipated in terms of the number of school-aged children in this community, such that Hortons Creek is already full and will not be used for the Cedar Fork school like we thought it was going to be,” Haywood said.
As a result, the school board is seeking to keep the nearly 8,000-square-foot mobile unit on the Cedar Fork Elementary School site until the school is completed and for grandfathering to take place.
“We are trying to allow the students who are in second or third grade graduate at Cedar Fork and not have them moved in the last year or two,” Haywood said.
The board is making the request a little less than a year in advance because it would take that amount of time to reassign students and move the trailer if the council denies the request. The council may make a decision at its Tuesday, June 26, meeting.
“What we are trying to avoid is any kind of double reassignment, where children could potentially go to Hortons Creek and then go back to Cedar Fork and then go back to E-50,” Haywood said. “We find that not to be in the best interest of these young children.”
But councilman Michael Schlink questioned what the school system’s contingency plan is if either the new school is not built by 2019 or if there are more students than are predicted at this time, like with the case of Hortons Creek Elementary.
He said he is interested in a plan that would ensure the school’s enrollment cap could be removed and the trailers no longer are needed.
“If the plan doesn’t work, then what do you do?” he said. “We still have trailers on there, and you still come back and say, ‘I’m sorry. Our projections were wrong.’ ”
Desormeaux said the school system will continue updating projects of student growth annually to try to minimize the possibility of that happening.
“It is a plan that is based on the best estimates that everybody can come up with to provide a new school that will serve the area the best we can,” he said. “We can’t build them any quicker than we are building them.”
Council members also questioned traffic impacts to the area, but Rynal Stephenson, a traffic engineer representing the school system, said existing infrastructure is adequate to handle current traffic.
“We realize the exponential growth we are experiencing this school year, so I made a lot of changes,” Cedar Fork Principal Che-Von Stone said. “Actually, parents have complimented us on very few traffic issues that we’ve had this past year.”
On July 26, the council also is expected to consider rezoning an 18-acre site on Morrisville Carpenter Road to allow for up to 75 new homes.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon