ZEBULON — Middle-schoolers at East Wake Academy have never had a building to call their own.
The Zebulon charter’s fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders have attended class in rooms interspersed throughout modulars and other buildings on campus since the school’s inception in 1998.
That will soon change.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development branch in August approved a 40-year, $3 million loan to East Wake Academy for a middle school building on campus. The loan’s interest rate is 3.5 percent. School leaders expect it will cost about $3.5 million to build the building they’re still designing.
East Wake Academy’s 360 middle-schoolers currently attend class in four modular units on the back of campus. Each modular unit has about eight classrooms.
The future middle school building “will help bring a new sense of unity to the middle school,” said East Wake Academy headmaster Stephen Gay.
“It’ll build some pride,” he said.
Gay and school leaders plan to build a two-story, 22,000-square-foot middle school perpendicular to the elementary school and across what is now a parking lot. The entrance of the future middle school building will face the elementary school building.
Jonathan Medlin, the architect for the project, said his goal is to break ground on the new building by mid-March. If construction efforts move quickly, the middle school building could become operational by the start of the spring semester in 2015. Otherwise, it will open for the new school year in fall 2015.
On Aug. 29, Medlin met with Gay, middle school principal Kevin Murray, director of school improvement Paul Davis, and Mike Lester, the school’s board chairman, to continue designing the middle school building.
“Your buildings should look similar, but they don’t have to be the same,” Medlin told the group as they sat at a table in an elementary school conference room.
The group talked about flooring, lighting and whether the school should include a cafeteria. The discussion was informal and the group reached few firm conclusions.
They hope to install drinking fountains designed so that people can easily use them to fill up a water bottle. Teacher desks will also be mobile – not connected to the wall as they are now in East Wake’s main school buildings. School leaders also hope to integrate smartboards in each middle school classroom. Only some middle school teachers currently have smartboards. Others use projectors and white boards.
“It’ll be beneficial to use the same technology in each classroom,” Davis said.
More than anything, school leaders want a safe, durable, sustainable building for their students. The modular buildings currently used by the middle school are designed to last about 15 years, Medlin said, adding: “We hope this building will last 100 years.”