Education

New high school will be ‘a dream come true’ for southern Wake County

Wake County and Fuquay-Varina officials grabbed shovels on Thursday, June 29, 2017, to take a ceremonial scoop of dirt, marking the beginning of Willow Spring High School’s construction.
Wake County and Fuquay-Varina officials grabbed shovels on Thursday, June 29, 2017, to take a ceremonial scoop of dirt, marking the beginning of Willow Spring High School’s construction. hgargan@newsobserver.com

Classrooms are crowded at Fuquay-Varina High School, an aging building that serves about 2,100 students in southern Wake County.

Jane Chambers, president of the school’s PTSA, said she and other parents got “chill bumps” while passing by the construction site of the new Willow Spring High School on Old Honeycutt Road. Relief is on the way.

“I’ve been hearing from people about this being a dream come true,” Chambers said Thursday morning during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new school. “I know many of you here have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into bringing us to this point. It is so exciting that our kids will be able to come out of their mobile units and into a beautiful new facility, where every classroom is the same temperature and there are no leaks.”

When Willow Spring High School opens in August 2019, it will serve Fuquay-Varina High School students for two years while Wake County renovates the old school. Then Willow Spring’s first class of students will enroll.

The school will relieve overcrowding at Fuquay-Varina High and Middle Creek High in Apex.

Willow Spring High School will stand four stories tall and have a capacity to serve about 2,350 students. Its 350,000-square-foot design will largely be based on one used for Rolesville High School, which opened in 2013.

Fuquay-Varina residents have been waiting for the new school for about a decade, Mayor John Byrne said.

Working with the county to accelerate the school’s progress has been a point of urgency for town leaders, who ran water and sewer lines down Old Honeycutt Road toward the school site so the county could start construction as soon as possible on the $93 million project.

“I’ve been to a number of these ceremonies, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to one that’s as much anticipated as this one,” Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria said during Thursday’s ceremony.

Jim Merrill, superintendent of Wake County schools, said Willow Spring High is being built in the midst of tobacco fields east of town as a result of discussions with Fuquay-Varina leaders and studies of growth trends.

“You forecast growth, and you get in front of it if you can,” Merrill said. “We’re still reacting to growth in Cary and Morrisville, but we’re getting better at getting in front of things here.”

Wake builds schools in growing parts of the county, but they can also drive growth on their own, said Jim Seymour, Fuquay-Varina’s director of economic development.

“We see a lot of residential development around schools,” he said. “But we know with it being a high school and kids leaving for lunch, students driving, we know to expect some type of commercial businesses surrounding it.”

Wake County has already acquired land for an elementary school nearby and has plans to add a middle school, too.

Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan

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