Seniors gathered in the Rolesville High School gymnasium on Thursday to practice what no class has yet done at the school – graduate.
Rolesville High, which opened in 2013, will graduate its first full senior class of about 227 students on June 8 at the Raleigh Convention Center.
It’s been a long time coming for this school, which had its share of controversy before the first brick was put in place.
Wake County had bought land for a new high school off of Forestville Road, but neighbors resisted. So the county bought a 74-acre tract off of U.S. 401, suggested by Rolesville Mayor Frank Eagles.
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When construction was finished, Rolesville High was the largest and most expensive high school Wake had ever built. The 349,000-square-foot facility cost $75 million and features floor-to-ceiling windows and a cafeteria unit on each of the four floors.
The school was built to enroll 2,200 students – the first Wake school meant to accommodate more than 2,000.
Eagles said the school’s first graduation will mark a milestone for him personally, and for the community. He pushed county and school leaders to build the school in Rolesville, one of the fastest-growing towns in North Carolina.
“I believe in education, and I believe quality education will bring quality growth,” he said.
‘Something to remember’
Shaquan Gardner attended his freshman year at Heritage High and wasn’t thrilled when he was assigned to Rolesville his sophomore year.
Going to a new school felt like he was starting all over again, but he made friends and grew to like the experience.
“It’s something to remember in the future,” said Gardner, 19, who plans to enlist in the U.S. Army.
Ericka Lucas, who has served as Rolesville’s principal since it originally opened to 650 ninth and 10th graders, said she has enjoyed helping build a culture at the school.
Three years ago, she stood in front of a room full of parents and students and told them they would be Rams, creating continuity between the Rolesville middle and high school.
“When they come to high school, they’re just a bigger, tougher-looking Ram,” Lucas said.
Since day one, she has looked forward to seeing the school’s first full graduating class. (Last year, Rolesville graduated one student who had enrolled after her family moved to Wake County.)
“I think I’m more excited than the kids are,” she said.
Rolesville High won’t name a valedictorian and salutatorian. The school is using the Latin honors system, which the Wake school board might adopt for all schools starting in 2019.
But it’s the only time she will lead a Rolesville senior class across the stage. Starting July 1, Lucas will become Wake’s director of Second Chance Online Resource for Education, which helps suspended students continue their studies.
Her husband, Reginald Lucas, is a health and physical education teacher and football coach at Wake Forest High School. They both regularly worked through the evening, and Lucas said it was time to reassess their careers with their 10-year-old son entering middle school.
“It becomes a puzzle piece, and we have to kind of fit these pieces together,” she said.
A new Rolesville principal has not been named.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi