Freshman center on schedule to relieve Garner High crowding

kjahner@newsobserver.comOctober 7, 2013 

— Even with passage of a school construction bond, it will be years before Garner High moves into newly constructed facilities. But plans to give the school some breathing room next semester remain on track.

Wake County Public Schools officials say construction on a new freshman center, created from a movie theater across the street, plus temporary classroom units in its parking lot, remains on schedule.

“It’s just staying on a very tight schedule,” WCPSS Assistant Superintendent Joe Desormeaux said. “And right now, it looks like they’ll make it.”

The new facility cost $5.4 million and will include 12 learning spaces in the former theater and 22 more classroom modules in the parking lot. Road work to prepare for new traffic patterns continues, and a path has been cleared and will be paved to allow students to get from Spring Road to the former theater.

“We’re tickled to death to have the space,” Garner High Principal Drew Cook said. “I don’t think anybody would argue that’s a permanent solution. It’s better than what we have right now and it’s also going to provide some instructional opportunity with our ninth-grade kids that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Last winter, Cook said the school had contingency plans for the freshman center opening to start the school year, over the Christmas break, and next school year. The school had been capped at 2,500 students; enrollment ultimately reached 2,436, the largest in school history.

Cook has expressed concern about the distance of the new satellite campus from the main buildings and the nature of temporary buildings. Tornado warnings and drills, rain and limited and thinly spread supervision presented problems.

He also said separating freshmen could allow them to focus on school undistracted by upper classes at an academically vulnerable time; the path toward dropping out typically starts freshman year, Cook said.

The space will also alleviate crowding issues in common spaces, such as hallways.

He also said when the project was delayed – it was to be ready when the current school year began – that a mid-year opening could be difficult.

The town cut traffic to the part of Spring Road that students must cross during the school day.

Desormeaux said teachers should be able to move in during Christmas break.

“When the inspectors come, there’s always a bit of a surprise or two, a change that could be a day or two. That’s not uncommon,” he said.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @GarnerCleveland

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