Wake Ed

Garner may again withhold permit approval for new schools

We could see another game of chicken between the Wake County school system and the Town of Garner when it comes to granting permits for school projects.

As noted in an article in Sunday’s Garner-Cleveland Record by Kyle Jahner, Garner Town Council members talked at the Dec. 2 meeting about withholding permits on planned new schools to get the school board’s attention if responsiveness doesn’t improve by a February public hearing.

Councilman Gra Singleton said the school system had essentially ignored the town. He said requests for meetings with town officials have been put off since summer, and that little communication has been offered regarding plans for building two new schools and dramatically renovating two others in the town.

“They haven’t told us anything,” Singleton said.

Garner uses the same threat of withholding permits against the school system several years ago.

In 2007, town leaders refused to approve renovation permits at Smith and Aversboro elementary schools.

The refusal led to a deal in which the school board adopted a resolution to look at what can be done to reduce the percentage of low-income students at both schools for the 2009-10 school year.

In 2008, town leaders delayed approving a permit for the new Bryan Road Elementary, saying they were concerned that the school district would assign too many poor students from outside the town to the school.

The school board wound up delaying the opening of Bryan Road, shifting the money intended for construction from the 2006 bond issue into another project.

Funding to build Bryan Road is part of the bond issue approved by voters in October.

The town council wants consideration for a new middle school to be built instead of Bryan Road Elementary. Both remain long-term objectives, but only the elementary school – which costs about $20 million less – made it into this bond measure.

Councilwoman Kathy Behringer, the day after the meeting, tempered the criticism of school staff, and suggested in retrospect that the town may have been better served going directly to school board members, who direct staff and set policy.