Local leaders mull school-name options

aramos@newsobserver.comJuly 1, 2013 

— This time around, the Wake County school board is taking its time to choose names for new high schools.

Future schools in Cary and Garner are waiting to be named, but school board members say they are wary of a repeat of the public outcry over the name of a new school in the Friendship community near Apex.

Residents there were upset after they said they were left out of the naming process for a new high school set to open in 2015 off Humie Olive Road.

“There’s no reason to rush if we don’t have to,” said school board member Jim Martin, who lives in Apex.

The board first took up the name issue for the Cary and Garner schools on June 19, but they decided to hold off until later this month to give the public a chance to have their say.

Four options are on the table for a new 88-acre high school campus on Roberts Road in western Cary: Green Level High, White Oak High, Roberts Road High and Southwest Cary High.

If voters approve an upcoming bond referendum, the school would open in 2017 to accommodate growth from other nearby schools and then in 2018 as a new high school, said Wake schools spokeswoman Samiha Khanna.

So far, the Cary Town Council prefers the name Southwest Cary High School. Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said council members agree the school should have “Cary” in its name.

Green Level High School could be confusing, he said, since Green Hope High is nearby. And Roberts Road High?

“‘Where is that?’ ” Weinbrecht said. “That’s what people would say.”

Under district policy, new schools are named after their location or nearby roads, streets, natural resources and historical markers. Sometimes they’re named in honor of a person.

But naming a school based on a municipality or geographic location may not be the best policy moving forward, said Martin, one of four school board members who represent western and southwestern Wake County.

Towns are still growing, and their borders are shifting. What is considered western Cary now may be central Cary in five or 10 years, Martin said.

Also, he said, students don’t always live in the town where they attend school, so they don’t necessarily identify with a municipality.

“Schools should be associated with their own culture, not with a municipality,” Martin said.

He said naming schools for a historic landmark or prominent person might be a better option.

In Apex, the battle of geography vs. history is still pending. The Apex Town Council originally supported naming the new school West Apex High, but it reconsidered after more than 350 people signed a petition asking for “Friendship” to be part of the name.

Residents argued the new school would be located in the historic community founded by whites, Native-Americans and blacks before the Civil War.

The council compromised and voted to support the name Apex Friendship High School.

The school board has yet to make a final decision on the name.

Staff writer Sarah Nagem contributed to this report.

Ramos: 919-460-2609

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