Some Wake County parents and school leaders say they worry a new high school with an arts theme would pull students away from other schools that focus on the arts, especially Enloe High in Raleigh.
Wake wants to build a small-format high school near downtown Raleigh on Capital Boulevard, south of the Interstate 440 Beltline. Construction is expected to begin next year, and the school is scheduled to open in August 2021.
Plans call for a magnet school with a focus on visual and performing arts and management of the arts, including marketing principles involved in leading an arts organization.
Wake school leaders say an arts focus would attract families who might otherwise opt for private schools or charter schools, such as Longleaf School of the Arts in Raleigh.
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But some question how the magnet theme would affect other schools with popular art programs. Enloe High School, which also has a magnet program that includes visual and performing arts, is on New Bern Avenue, about 3 miles away from the new school.
“How do we see this while keeping our other programs strong?” asked school board member Jim Martin, whose children attended Enloe. “I want an ‘and’ situation here, not an ‘or.’ ”
Lisa Hoskins, a Wake County parent, said her family chose Enloe mainly because of its art program. She said her daughter, Hannah, who is a senior, has been involved in theater, chorus, the drama club and an improvisational acting troupe and has taken television production classes.
Hoskins, who serves as the membership chairwoman for the Enloe Arts Guild, a nonprofit that supports the school’s arts program, says a new high school with an arts theme would affect Enloe and other schools, too.
“A lot of the area schools, even though they may not be a magnet school, they have some pretty talented kids,” she said. “A lot of these other high schools do tremendous musicals. There is a lot of talent in the county.”
The new high school is part of Wake County’s broader plans to build schools with a specific focus on smaller-than-normal sites. High schools typically are built on 60-acre sites to accommodate about 2,000 students and athletic fields.
Wake paid $6.4 million for the 12.1-acre property at 1820 Capital Blvd. in August 2016. A new school there would enroll 1,000 to 1,500 students, and it would not feature athletic fields.
The site was home to Bobby Murray Chevrolet until March 2016, when Capital Automotive Group bought it and turned it into Capital Chevrolet. School leaders have said Capital Chevrolet plans to move out this year.
‘Decimated’ arts programs
Wake schools have cut or reduced arts programs in recent years due to budget constraints, and school board member Bill Fletcher said he wondered whether a new arts-themed high school was necessary.
“We’ve decimated orchestras and bands,” Fletcher said. “ I don’t think we’ve killed choral programs yet. The instrumental music has been left largely unfunded with what survived the economic downturn. (We need to) make sure this program has a supply of students to sustain it over time.”
Wake’s enrollment forecast suggests the number of high school students will increase by 16.5 percent in the next 10 years, but enrollment was much lower than expected this school year. School board member Christine Kushner said she wanted the district to re-examine how it predicted school growth.
“It seems we could maximize some capacity downtown or in the central part of the county and be able to respond more nimbly to how enrollment is changing throughout the county,” she said.
School board member Linsday Mahaffey also asked at Tuesday’s school board work session how the district would ensure the new school would have a diverse enrollment.
“How do we deal with the inequity of, ‘I’ve ... gone to this camp and practiced the violin since I was in kindergarten’ versus ‘I’ve never touched an instrument?’ ” she asked.
Board member Keith Sutton suggested that a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) focus might be a better fit for the new school.
Pressley Baird: 919-829-8935, @pressleybaird