Wake Ed

Wake County school board talks about building schools inside Raleigh Beltline

Momentum is building on the Wake County school board to put plans for new schools inside the Raleigh Beltline in the next school construction bond issue.

The idea got more support this week because of the objections raised by Broughton High School parents about taking the new students who would be capped out of Enloe High School. Board members said it highlighted how crowded Inside the Beltline schools like Broughton have come.

School board member Keith Sutton suggested at Tuesday’s board work session that they add a high school inside the Beltline to the planning assumptions used for the next bond, which could be on the ballot as soon as 2016. Other board members said they supported the idea and added that other schools inside the Beltline should be considered too.

“People are moving downtown,” said school board member Bill Fletcher. “They’re moving inside the Beltline. The existing neighborhoods are turning over with younger families who have different needs, and we need to be responsive to that.”

The higher growth in other parts of the county, particularly western and northern Wake, has led to those areas getting most of the new schools over the past decade.

Board members said building schools inside the Beltline will mean departing from current models which call for large tracts of land to be used.

“We do need to look at building additional schools inside the city, and the basic assumptions of 15-20 acres for an elementary school – that’s out the window,” said school board member Kevin Hill, the chair of the facilities committee. “But I think as we start to look at the next capital program, it’s got to be on the table.”

Fletcher said they’re not going to find a 70-acre site in downtown Raleigh for a comprehensive high school so programmatic changes would be necessary.

“There’s not going to be two practice fields, a football stadium and 85 classrooms in a freestanding structure inside the Beltline anytime in the new future,” Fletcher said.

School board member Jim Martin said he’s talked about the issue with several Raleigh City Council members.

“We’ve got Dix Park coming online,” Martin said. “I think there’s a wonderful opportunity to partner so we don’t need these multiple practice fields for every school. But what if we have a joint-use facility with the city that would be joint use for multiple small-program high schools connected with Dix Park?

This is a great time to partner with some of those ideas. Think creatively with what we could do in partnership with the City of Raleigh.”

The school board will hold a joint meeting with the Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday. Among the agenda topics will be how costs are rising higher than expected for the current construction program funded by the 2013 bond issue.

But school board Chairwoman Christine Kushner said the idea of new schools inside the Beltline could also come up at the joint meeting.