Wake County approves money for joint school/YMCA in Raleigh

The Wake County Board of Commissioners approved money Tuesday to start designing a joint elementary school and YMCA of the Triangle facility designed to help revitalize Southeast Raleigh.

Commissioners approved a request from the Wake County school system to reallocate $1 million in construction money to get the new 500-student school ready to open in 2019. The school will be part of a complex off Rock Quarry Road near Interstate 40 that includes more than 70 units of affordable housing and space that could include a health care facility and a grocery store.

“This is a real innovative approach,” said Commissioner Erv Portman. “One that goes beyond the traditional silos of trying to deal with affordable housing and public education.”

Organizers hope the joint project will break the cycle of inter-generational poverty in Southeast Raleigh, one of the most economically depressed parts of Wake County. Student test scores in Southeast Raleigh are well below the district average.

The YMCA purchased the former Watson’s Flea Market in Southeast Raleigh and wants the school system’s help in providing area children with a comprehensive education from birth to college.

The joint school/YMCA would include amenities such as a gymnasium beyond what Wake typically would provide and a swimming pool, which is not part of the elementary school model. The school system and YMCA will share use of the building.

Commissioner John Burns said he hopes the project will address the critical shortage of swimming pools in the community to educate children on how to swim.

Since the site is owned by the YMCA, the school system turned to a public-private partnership allowed under state law to build the school. The YMCA will be the developer and provide the construction funding in return for the school system leasing use of the facility.

A lease agreement will be presented to the school board and commissioners for approval later this year.

“This is an amazing project, and we look forward to seeing this come to full fruition,” said Sig Hutchinson, chairman of the Board of Commissioners.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui