In Cary, school bond issue would mean 3 new schools and $9.5 million in upgrades

aspecht@newsobserver.comOctober 4, 2013 

  • Cary-area schools aided by bond issue

    Adams Elementary: $57,750 for a new heating and cooling system

    Athens Drive High: $2 million for site improvements, equipment, electrical work, a heating and cooling system and roofing

    Briarcliff Elementary: $1.39 million for new furnishings, interior finishes, electrical work, exterior maintenance and roofing

    Cary Elementary: $257,000 for new heating and cooling system

    Cary High: $3.6 million for interior finishes, electrical work, a new heating and cooling system and exterior work

    Davis Drive Elementary: $80,000 for interior finishes

    Davis Drive Middle: $267,000 for interior finishes and a heating and cooling system

    Dillard Drive Elementary: $80,000 for interior finishes

    Dillard Drive Middle: $90,000 for interior finishes

    East Cary Middle: $650,680 for interior finishes, electrical work and a heating and cooling system

    Farmington Woods Elementary: $357,000 for interior finishes, electrical work and a heating and cooling system

    Kingswood Elementary: $132,000 for a heating and cooling system

    Laurel Park Elementary: $40,000 for building exterior work

    Northwoods Elementary: $74,449 for interior finishes

    Penny Road Elementary: $202,728 for interior finishes and electrical work

    Reedy Creek Middle: $370,000 for building exterior work

— For years, Wake County had to build lots of schools to keep up with the thousands of families that have moved to Cary.

Many of those schools are still fairly new, so they don’t yet need major construction overhauls that are slated for some schools in other parts of the county, according to school leaders.

Voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve an $810 million school construction bond issue. If voters OK the spending, none of the schools in Cary will undergo major renovations, and the upgrades planned for 16 Cary schools amount to a little more than 1 percent of spending.

Most of that money would go toward new heating and cooling systems, furniture and other improvements.

But the bond would affect western Wake when it comes to new schools: Three of the 16 proposed schools – two elementary schools and one high school – would be near Cary and Morrisville.

Under the bond package, about $9.5 million would go to local schools. Cary schools simply haven’t aged enough, and the student population hasn’t grown enough in recent years, to merit more spending, said Joe Desormeaux, Wake schools’ assistant superintendent for facilities.

“Other locations had more pressing needs,” Desormeaux said. “We were trying to address new growth.”

Two Garner schools top the school system’s priority list for major renovations. Garner High, which was built for 1,800 students but enrolls 2,400, would receive the most help: $67 million. Vandora Springs Elementary is slated for $24.6 million in renovations.

Faster growth elsewhere

As for new growth, southwestern Wake County is outpacing Cary.

Cary grew by 51,157 people between 2000 and 2012, according to U.S. census data. That’s more than the 49,912 people who moved to Apex, Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs.

But during that span, southwestern Wake towns grew a combined 133 percent – more than double Cary’s 54.1 percent population increase.

If the bond passes, Lincoln Heights Elementary in Fuquay-Varina would receive $21.6 million, and Apex High would receive about $5 million in major renovations. Five of the 16 proposed new schools are also slated for southwestern Wake.

But Cary schools aren’t being left out in the cold, Desormeaux said.

The $9.5 million for Cary schools amounts to about 14.5 percent of Wake County’s budget for minor school projects.

Cary High and Athens Drive High, which is located in Raleigh but draws many students from Cary, would receive $3.6 million and $2 million, respectively. Each is slated for new interior finishes, electrical work and heating and cooling systems.

2006 bond

Cary schools got lots of attention from the 2006 bond issue.

Cary High got $9 million, West Cary Middle got $3 million, and Green Hope High and Briarcliff Elementary each got $1.5 million in renovations, Desormeaux said.

“They’ve gotten their share since 2000,” he said of Cary schools.

Laurel Park Elementary in Cary was built with money from that bond issue.

Burt Batten, the school’s principal, said this year’s bond includes more than just new schools and facility renovations. The money would help fund a $64.9 million plan to upgrade high-speed data networks and wireless capacity at schools, install interactive equipment such as interactive whiteboards and purchase laptop computers and tablets.

“They may not be big-ticket items, but they make a difference in our kids’ lives every day,” Batten said.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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