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The much-anticipated Apex High renovations, which will begin in June of 2017, will be finalized and announced this month, and many are wondering what they will entail. Well, something they will not include would be any building currently standing. Developers plan to demolish the entire school, leaving only the sports fields. Such a large project definitely requires a lot of planning, and it does not hurt to have someone familiar with such a monumental change. Apex High’s principal, Dr. Diann Kearney, worked as an assistant principal for fifteen years. During this time, the school where she was working, Sanderson High School, was undergoing a large renovation, and she had to oversee the staff and students’ relocation to Wakefield High School. “When I was hired to be the principal, I think that they were looking for somebody who could come in and navigate through this renovation because it is a mammoth undertaking,” explains Kearney. “It takes a significant amount of time and energy.”
It is definitely a project which requires a great effort. The renovation squad, which Kearney has dubbed the “Reno Team,” is officially in charge, but the group has been taking a lot of input. The main members, which include teachers Del Phillips and Todd Miller, who also heads the school improvement team, as well as head custodian Jeff Cropper, and Kearney. In November, the team and the architects did a visioning session with some of the staff and students to get some ideas. They also held sessions with department chairs to specifically see what needs to be included in the reconstruction of Apex High, and there are a number of fine details the Reno Team does not want to miss. Science teachers want eight lab stations in each science classroom instead of six. Students want a courtyard and more band instrument storage. “The auditorium doors need to be thirty-six inches wide,” says Kearney, “so that a timpani drum can fit in because that’s how big it is, and that’s the biggest instrument we have.”
To cover everything, architects came in with several proposals. Of the four schemes presented, 3B, a four-story square donut, was the one selected. Everything will be taken down, and all pods and trailers will be taken away. Everything will be enclosed, mostly connected, and separated into wings. The center will be open, providing students with a courtyard. The auditorium will be able to hold 550 students and will have no stories above, meaning it will have incredibly high ceilings. It will be close to where the current cafeteria is. The gym will be on the opposite side, to the right if one was facing the property from Laura Duncan. The media center will be on the second floor. Outside of the building, the parking lots will be scrapped and completely redone, and planners are even estimating an extra one hundred extra parking spaces being added.
That is right; transportation is taking a turn for the better. The junior lot will have a tabletop parking structure, meaning it will be multi-story with no trees, and the top level will be flat, perfect for the marching band to practice on. It will likely be two stories with a portion of a third. There will also be a separate lane for students with disabilities, and there will be a carpool lane. The purpose of the carpool loop will be to promote stacking; by moving more vehicles in, backed up traffic on Laura Duncan will be prevented. The bus loop will be moved from the front and be near where the current senior lot is.
The interior of the school will incorporate Apex High’s “colors, logo, mascot, trophies, awards, and student art.” Kearney describes the unique design as “a rich reflection of our tradition, identity, and who we are,” as well as a display of Apex’s “history, traditions, and community.”
Besides the new school’s style, many are questioning how the necessary funds will be obtained. For design and early construction fees, $8 million have been allotted, and this $70 million renovation will be carried out by the all-female Clark Nexson architect group that designed Apex Friendship. Wake County has also contracted with the construction company Balfour Beatty, and surveyors have already done a thorough review and assessed the building conditions.
While the cost seems high, it is hardly anything compared to the total county school construction needs, which totals at $2 billion. An estimated $1.1 billion of this will be used for the development of new schools, which will be necessary to house the projected 20,904 students expected to arrive by 2022. This rapidly growing county, ranked largest school system in North Carolina and the sixteenth largest in the nation, is looking to better accommodate the new students and the current 157,180 students.
But school board members are worried about meeting the plan’s financial needs as construction costs continue to rise. There have been speculations about taxes raising or bond referendums. But the Wake County Board of Commissioners is looking into borrowing money without voter approval versus placing a bond referendum on the November ballot. An estimated $358.9 million will be needed annually for building, and while they will likely be able to borrow $440 million for county projects in the next two years, the current $994 million building program will unfortunately end at the same time. If no more money is produced, there will not be any funds available to construct new schools or complete upgrades on existing ones past the 2018-2019 year.
While Kearney explains that “Wake County is still discussing the funding source,” the renovations will definitely still be happening. The revamping of Apex High will be completed during a two-year swing at Green Level High School, which is currently under construction at the intersection of Green Level and Roberts Road. While Apex High students are at Green Level High, all sports and activities will be held there. In August of 2019, the students and staff will return to an improved Apex High. “We will make it Apex High through and through,” says Kearney. “I hope to make it so you walk in, and you know we are the Cougars, and our colors are black and gold.”
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