CARY — Some Garner Town Council members would like to see the Wake County school system build a middle school on the site of a planned elementary school.
Much of the presentation that Joe Desormeaux, the school system’s assistant superintendent for facilities, gave Thursday at a Triangle Community Coalition forum was on the need to find sites for new schools. But during the Q&A period, Garner Council members took advantage of the opportunity to publicly make their pitch for a change in school building plans.
The $810 million school construction bond issue approved by voters last month would include funding to build Bryan Road Elementary School in Garner.
But Councilwoman Kathy Behringer pointed to how Garner’s year-round schools are all on a single track. She said that putting the schools on a multi-track calendar would absorb the need for new elementary seats.
Behringer said that the Bryan Road site would be better used for a middle school so that Garner students don’t have to travel 15 miles to the Middle Creek area. There are two middle schools in Garner.
Desormeaux defended the need for an elementary school while saying a middle school is in the district’s future plans for Garner.
“Let me just say that honestly you need both,” Desormeaux responded. “You need the elementary school and you need the middle school in that area to serve the students out in that area. That’s what the indications are showing us.
It just so happens that the middle school out in that area, just the money basically ran out of the bond before we got to the middle school. It’s probably one of the next few schools on the list. It’s just one of those issues where there were a lot more schools that we would have liked to have built. It’s just that the money stopped at one point.”
After the forum, Behringer and Town Councilman Buck Kennedy said they’re not giving up on getting the school system to change its building plans. Councilman Gra Singleton has also vocally advocated for a middle school over an elementary school.
Kennedy questioned the need for the new elementary school, saying it would likely be filled with students bused from outside the immediate area to help Wake’s efforts to promote socioeconomic diversity. He said not building a middle school in Garner also allows Wake to continue its busing for diversity efforts.
“Garner is a very diverse community,” Kennedy said. “It doesn’t need to be shuffled by the district.”
Kennedy noted how town leaders had previously threatened to withhold permitting approval for renovations at elementary schools in Garner unless the town’s concerns were heard about student assignment.