Wake Ed

New Wake County high school may have different design


A proposed new Wake County high school on a hazardous waste site in northeast Raleigh could be unique in more ways than one.

The 32.55-acre former Corning Glass Works site at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and New Hope Church Road is smaller than the 60-acre sites that the school system usually buys for high schools. School board Vice Chairman Tom Benton says the high school that would be housed at the former industrial plant would be of a “different design” than found at traditional 2,000-student high schools in Wake.

Benton cited examples such as the single-gender leadership academies, the Vernon Malone College & Career Academy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) schools that have fewer students than traditional high schools. He said the design for the new high school could also be something entirely different.

School board members have talked about opening more small, themed high schools in Raleigh. Benton said these designs are one way that Wake can help deal with increased competition from other school options.

Enrollment in charter schools, private schools and home schools in Wake County grew by 3,357 students during the 2014-15 school year. In contrast, the Wake County school system grew by 1,884 students – well below district and state projections.

Benton said Wake has responded to the increased competition by providing a quality education for students regardless of where they live. Examples he cites include the elementary support model program that will provide extra resources to 12 high-needs schools, the academic redesign of Knightdale High and the redesign that will occur at East Wake High.

But in the meantime, school officials say they’re doing their due diligence to make sure that the former Corning Glass Works site can safely be used as a school.

The former capacitor plant, which left behind potentially hazardous compounds, is an inactive EPA Superfund site and on the N.C. Department of Natural Resources’ inactive hazardous waste sites list. That means federal regulators no longer monitor the site, although state environmental officials require regular testing for potential groundwater contamination.