When the Wake County Public School system laid out its plan to tear down only 39 percent of Garner High School and renovate the rest, supporters of the fix said that wasn’t enough.
Parents, teachers and Garner town council members complained through emails and discussions, pointing out that the school had mold and mildew on the walls and that it was deteriorating. Most of the campus was built in the 1960s.
At Tuesday’s school board work session, Assistant Superintendent of Facilities Joe Desormeaux said the district had determined that was, indeed, the case. The district will now demolish more of the outdated buildings and reconstruct them, rather than try to preserve them as originally planned.
And South Garner High School’s opening will be delayed by one year to the 2018-19 school year to accommodate the increased construction at Garner High. Exactly how much of Garner High will be of the torn down now is unclear.
The initial plan was to save two of the buildings, C and D, a few years ago. Garner High students were to have spent a year at the new South Garner High building, while their school was being renovated and reconstructed. After that year they would move back to their school during the final year of renovation and building F was to have been used as a swing space. South Garner would be open to its new students for the 2017-18 school year.
But buildings C and D have since deteriorated and the district has decided to demolish those buildings and reconstruct them.
Desormeaux said when looking for a solution, one idea impacted another, so they decided to simply demolish and reconstruct the buildings.
“This is the plan that they want,” Desormeaux said of the supporters of Garner Magnet High renovations. “This is the plan that everyone was interested in.”
Because of the demolition of those additional facilities, moving the students back on campus after a year would be difficult, he said. The students will instead stay in the South Garner High building for two years.
School board member Monika Johnson-Hostler said they created a community feedback process and laid out the possible options for renovations. Most of the school community agreed that they’d rather have most of the school reconstructed.
“We were asking for their opinion, and we were serious when we said we would take their opinion into consideration,” she said.
South Garner High is being constructed to alleviate the overcrowding at the school system’s second highest populated school in Garner Magnet High.
School board member Bill Fletcher said there needs to be a discussion with the community to provide clarity on when the new school will finally open.
“Because right now we’re going to have an overstuffed school and an overstuffed school,” Fletcher said. “There’s no more relief coming for two more years in Garner.”
South Garner High currently has a higher capacity than Garner Magnet High. Garner has a capacity of 1,847 students. South Garner will have a 2,200-student capacity. However, the number of students at Garner still exceeds the capacity at South Garner High. There were 2,641 students enrolled at Garner Magnet High for the 2014-15 school year.
To alleviate the potential for overcrowding, Garner’s ninth grade center at the former movie theater will still be utilized for those students. The increase in construction will cost the district $3.7 million. Garner Magnet High renovations are still on track to be finished by 2018.
Vandora and Bryan Road
Vandora Springs Elementary was also supposed to undergo renovations and reconstruction. Students were going to stay at the school during the renovation process.
“It became very difficult to provide a place for the modelers to be added. Also to provide the staging for the construction and also to work around the bus and the car loops during this time frame,” Desormeaux said. He also said that it would have taken a year longer than expected if they had tried to keep the students on campus.
The changes they are recommending are to demolish the front of the school building B, which was built in 1990 and swing the school to the new Bryan Road Elementary School.
Instead of renovations being finished in December 2017, they will now be finished in August 2018 and Bryan Road Elementary students will open with its own students in the 2018-19 school year also.