New year means new schools in Wake County

Final work is underway July 20 at White Oak Elementary in Apex.
Final work is underway July 20 at White Oak Elementary in Apex.

New schools opening in Wake County every fall is now an annual tradition, and this year is no different.

Wake County Public Schools will open five new schools this year, with three in southwestern Wake County. Oakview and White Oak elementary schools are opening in Apex while Pleasant Grove Elementary is opening in Cary.

Elsewhere in Wake County, Pine Hollow Middle opened in North Raleigh in July, operating on multi-track year-round. Beaverdam Elementary is opening on a traditional schedule in east Raleigh.

Meanwhile, some Wake County schools are celebrating new beginnings. Green Magnet Elementary is moving into a new building at their old Six Forks Road address after spending two years at a temporary site. And Garner Magnet High students in 10th through 12th grades will move into a new South Garner High campus for two years while a new four-story building is built at the Garner campus.

Here’s what you need to know about the new schools in this part of the county.

Pleasant Grove Elementary

The details: Pleasant Grove is at 3605 Pleasant Grove Church Road in Cary. It operates on a traditional calendar.

Enrollment: The facility is built for 780 students with 435 expected to be enrolled this year from Brier Creek, Leesville Road and Stough Magnet elementary schools.

Building facts: The building is 100,511 square feet and cost about $25 million.

Principal: Burt Batten, who was principal of Laurel Park Elementary for five years.

What’s new: Batten said he’s excited to find out his students’ passions and motivations. Batten said he and the staff plan ease the transition for students coming from other schools with thoughtfulness.

“Belonging and togetherness,” Batten said. “That’s the priority. We have to be focused on taking the time to listen and establish consistent communication.”

Pleasant Grove, like Oakview, will have a wide range of technology. The 70-inch monitors and wireless device connections will be present in each classroom, and Batten said it will give more creative options for learning to teachers, and a more interactive experience for students.

“We hope it’ll make the experience in the classroom a lot more powerful,” he said.

Batten said he’s most excited about fostering children’s individual learning.

“What’s their passion and what motivates them?” he said. “That’s something that’s more important than anything else.”

Batten said the school’s website and social media will help increase the new school’s presence in the community, and they plan to use all their resources to reach out and engage families.

“We want to be as supportive as possible to share information,” he said.

What’s next? An open house is Friday, Aug. 26 from noon to 2 p.m.

Oakview Elementary

The details: The school is at 11500 Holly Springs New Hill Road, Apex. It operates on a traditional calendar.

Enrollment: The school will open with 670 children, while the building capacity is 800. It will draw students from Holly Springs, Holly Grove, Holly Ridge and Herbert Adkins elementaries.

Building facts: The two-story building is 102,412 square feet and cost more than $26.6 million.

Principal: Steven Moore, who was previously the principal of Fuquay-Varina Elementary School for seven years.

What’s new: Moore said the new school gives children and faculty an opportunity to build culture at Oakview.

“Culture is such an important part of the school,” Moore said. “We have the opportunity to build from the ground up and be a part of the community.”

Oakview will include new technology that’s been making its way into new elementary schools in the county. Moore said there will be a three-to-one ratio of technology, meaning for every three students there will be one device, such as a laptop or iPad.

“We want to really be focused on students on being actively involved in their learning” he said.

With the new technology, Moore said students can engage more efficiently with instruction. Each classroom will have a 70-inch monitor that connects wirelessly to devices in the room, so instead of getting up to solve problems on white boards or smart boards, students can mirror their answers on their devices to the screen.

“It’s all about giving students flexibility,” Moore said. “Giving students choice and voice.”

All of Oakview’s classroom furniture is mobile, Moore said, which also helps learning be more interactive.

To east the transition for the new students, Moore said they’ve built a strong online presense with the school’s website and social media. They also encouraged student involvement by letting them submit suggestions to name the school mascot – an owl.

What’s next? Oakview will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house on Aug. 26 from 9 to 12 a.m., where students can meet their teachers and view the school before the first day on Aug. 29.

White Oak Elementary

The details: White Oak Elementary is at 1512 White Oak Church Road in Apex. It operates on a traditional calendar.

Enrollment: Enrollment was about 380 students in early August, but the facility is built to hold 900. It will be taking students from Highcroft, Austin Ridge, Mills Park, Turner Creek, Weatherstone and Green Hope schools.

Building facts: With 52 classrooms, the building is 101,373 square feet at a cost of about $25 million.

Principal: Robin Swaim, who was principal of Morrisville Elementary for 11 years.

What’s new: Swaim said she and her staff plan to follow the “four C’s” in all that they do: communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.

“We really want to engage the students in technology,” she said of the school’s three-to-one ratio of students to technological devices. “It’s kind of a wow-factor for the students. They’re really excited.”

White Oak will also have wirelessly connected classrooms and mobile furniture, which Swaim said will foster hands-on learning and independence.

“It’s giving kids a lot of voice and choice in what they do,” she said.

To introduce students into the new culture of the school, she said she’s been meeting with many students over the last few months, and even had a “Spirit Night” at a frozen yogurt place in Cary.

“It gave me a chance to meet a lot of our parents that will be coming,” Swaim said. She also said school staff make sure to keep Twitter and the school’s website current.

Swaim said she’s most excited about creating a dynamic for the new school between students and teachers.

“The first day, our goal is to build those relationships with teachers and students,” she said. “And responding to their needs and their learning needs.”

What’s next? An open house is Friday, Aug. 26, from 3:30 to 5 p.m.