Local leaders mull school-name options

aramos@newsobserver.comJuly 6, 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 await names, 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 in Apex set to open in 2015.

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

Garner’s town council considered its recommendation to the school board on June 18, choosing to recommend South Garner High or Southern Garner High to the county. Other choices offered by the county included Buffaloe High, Cade Springs High, and Clifford Road High.

The new school would be built on Clifford Road just south of incorporated Garner. If and when the school is built, it would be voluntarily annexed to access town services, according to town spokesperson Rick Mercier. According to Wake County Public Schools, the $68.5 million project known as H-8 could open as swing space for Garner Magnet High School during that school’s planned renovations in August 2016 and open as its own school by 2017.

Garner High’s facility has been stretched thin, and in January a freshman center will open in a movie theater across the street to deal with overcrowding.

While many students for the new school wouldn’t live within town limits, the area does sit in Garner’s projected growth area, the council reasoned when choosing to keep the town in the name. Council members disliked the idea of using a largely unknown road in the name, and the decided not to evoke history with Buffaloe (family that once owned the land) or Cade Springs (a school from the 1800s to 1926).

The school board first took up the name issue for the Garner and Cary schools on June 19, but they decided to hold off to allow for public opinion. They could discuss the names as early as a July 23 work session and take action by Aug. 6.

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. Like Garner’s council, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said council members wanted “Cary” in its name.

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. Today’s western Cary may become 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 for the school off Humie Olive Road, 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 writers Kyle Jahner and Sarah Nagem contributed to this report.

Ramos: 919-460-2609

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