Wake Schools proposes 11 more schools for 21,000 new students by 2022

A joint meeting of the Board of Education and County Commissioners Tuesday evening to discuss the 7 year Capital Improvement Plan. Photo by Amy Cutler/WNCN

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — We’re now getting a better idea of what the Wake County Public School System is planning for its next capital improvement plan.

It was unveiled during a joint meeting of the Board of Education and County Commissioners Tuesday evening.

School leaders said that their best estimates show enrollment will be up by nearly 21,000 students by 2022. To meet those demands, WCPSS is proposing 11 new schools: 7 elementary, two middle, and two high schools. They’re also calling for renovating or replacing 9 others.

“Right now we have 20 schools that are capped. Which cannot accept students of families that buy homes or move into those school communities, ” Bill Fletcher with the Wake County Board of Education said.

According to that 7 year Capital Improvement Plan, those new or renovated schools will cost about $300 million each year. The next step determining how to pay for them.

“The first two years I think we can provide the funding but beyond that we have to look at some very innovative financial strategies,” Chair James West, Wake County Board of Commissioners said.

That could include a Go Bond Referendum and/ or tax increases.

But what some see as challenges, Mary Mayo sees a opportunity. As a computer teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School, Mayo told CBS North Carolina she was excited about what she heard in the meeting.

“Anything that can improve our students learning ability, that they will do well in the 21st century, I say go for it,” Mayo said.

The land to  build new schools  is becoming increasingly scarce and expensive in western and central Wake County.  So the commissioners are eyeing ways to avoid starting every new building from the ground up.

“We’ll be looking at not only what’s available but also creative options like, can we repurpose facilities, can we find a pre-existing buildings fit our needs?” said County Commissioner Matt Calabria. “In a situation where we are growing so quickly, we need to look at what’s best as well as cost effective options where we need the schools.”

Commissioners told CBS North Carolina they are looking at several funding options, including general obligation bonds,which would require voter approval, or limited obligation bonds, which don’t have to be voted on.

The commissioners don’t expect to make those funding decisions until June.

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