WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — Wake County School Board members approved a $1.98 billion school construction program last week to help meet the Wake County Public School System’s operational needs by 2023.
The seven-year building plan includes the construction of 14 new schools, 11 major school renovations and other facility improvements to accommodate both the current and future student population, according to the board resolution. The 10 new elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools will all be built in southwest Wake, while the renovations will be completed at schools throughout the county. School and county staff will review the seven-year plan annually to make changes and include new projects as needed.
In most cases, students will need to temporarily relocate while their schools are being renovated, according to The News & Observer. As of 2018, students at Wiley Elementary will go to school in a former movie theater in Garner, while students at Stough, North Ridge and Conn elementary schools will take turns spending a year at a site next to East Millbrook Middle School during renovations between the 2018-19 and 2020-21 school years.
Funding for the projects would occur over multiple years, so the public wouldn’t be asked to fund the bond referendum in one vote, reported The News & Observer In fact, commissioners are still considering whether or not to put the school construction bond referendum on the November 2016 ballot or to wait until 2018. If they opt to wait, the county would still issue a few bonds to fund more immediate school construction needs.
The timing of the projects coincides with the county’s debt model for funding capital projects. Last week, the school board also talked about possible ways to handle a funding gap in the operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. Even though student enrollment has increased 14 percent, per-student funding in the state has dropped by roughly 2 percent during the last seven years, reported ABC 11. In order to obtain sufficient funding, the building program will eventually require a property-tax increase.