The Apex Town Council unanimously approved a site plan Tuesday for Apex High School renovations, a design that will transform the campus with a building at least twice the height of the current structure.
It will be no slight renovation.
After the school’s old buildings are demolished, the new school will stand four stories tall – five at its highest – and consolidate classroom space into a single, 377,000-square-foot building. It also will eliminate mobile classrooms in favor of space for parking and other uses.
The existing two-story structures, built in 1977, are about 250,000 square feet.
The new building is expected to open in 2019.
Even with the added space, the building’s planned enrollment capacity of 2,262 is about 50 students below the existing school’s designed capacity and about 100 students below its actual enrollment this year.
More notable for students and the neighborhoods that surround the high school is the planned addition of 154 new parking spaces. Many of those will come in the form of a two-level parking deck built on top of existing student parking, on the south side of campus.
A new southbound right-turn lane and northbound left-turn lane will be added along the school’s frontage for controlled access to both entrances along Laura Duncan Road. The town had hoped to work with the state Department of Transportation to accelerate the separation of U.S. 64 from Laura Duncan Road and combine the two improvements, but for now, the NCDOT still plans to begin that project in 2022.
Demolition and construction are set to begin in the summer of 2017. Students assigned to Apex High School will spend two years at the newly built Green Level High School before returning to Apex High in August 2019.
The school system decided earlier this year to completely tear down the school when it learned that doing so would free up room for parking and other uses. Because of the building’s age and condition, that would cost $1.3 million more than the previously planned renovation, which would have required only one year of displacement rather than two. The total cost of rebuilding is expected to be $70.6 million.
In an otherwise friendly deliberation Tuesday, Councilman Bill Jensen said he is “really disappointed” that the school system had not used the redesign as an opportunity to better offset the stormwater impact of the school’s impermeable surfaces, which will increase by a tenth of an acre as a result of the overhaul.
Because much of the campus’s paved surface had been grandfathered in under old stormwater standards, the town can’t require Wake County Schools to mitigate runoff from anything besides what is added during the renovation.
The approval also includes an agreement to install a bidirectional radio amplifier, which enhances radio communications capabilities within the school in the event of an emergency. In the approval process for Apex Friendship Middle School earlier this year, the town’s request for the same piece of equipment was initially challenged by the Wake County school system but ultimately accepted.
“For the three of us up here who spent a significant amount of time in that school, we’re excited about this opportunity,” said Mayor Lance Olive, referring to the time he and Councilman Wesley Moyer were students and the 15 years Councilwoman Denise Wilkie’s 15 years was a teacher there.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan