Published: Feb 19, 2012 02:00 AM
Modified: Feb 17, 2012 05:08 PM
Two weeks after approving it, the Wake County Board of Education will reconsider Tuesday its decision to lease an office building for a ninth-grade center that has drawn the ire of Panther Creek High School parents.
School board chairman Kevin Hill said the Panther Creek lease deal is the sole topic at a specially called board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Under the six-year lease approved Feb. 7, the school system would have housed freshmen at the 77,574-square-foot office building at 3700 Pleasant Church Grove Road in Morrisville at a cost of nearly $1 million per year.
The nine miles between the school and that office proved too far for many Panther Creek High parents, who voiced concerns that their children would not be able to access elective and advanced placement courses, along with extracurricular activities.
Board member Jim Martin said he has received more than 100 emails from parents worried about diminished academic quality and transportation to the center.
"I have serious concerns about ninth-grade centers in general if they're not in proximity to the high school," said Martin, who opposed the proposal. "I believe that we really shouldn't have situations where if you go to one high school as a freshman, you can take AP biology, but if go to a place with a ninth-grade center, you can't take the AP course."
The board also weighed an option to place temporary modular classrooms on the site of a future middle school next to Alston Ridge Elementary, only three miles from Panther Creek High.
The board ultimately voted for the Morrisville site after staff emphasized that it could be open for the 2012-13 school year.
"Staff was encouraging us to make a decision right then and there," said board member Susan Evans. "I was uncomfortable with that. We hadn't been given advanced information or an opportunity to go out and check the sites."
With one daughter enrolled at Panther Creek and another beginning the ninth grade later this year, Paola Pagano said she was discouraged to see the proposal "come out of the blue" without explaining the logistics.
"It was just very confusing," she said. "They say they're cutting back on busing costs and then put a freshman center 10 miles away."
Staff writer T.Keung Hui contributed to this report.