The reconstruction of the Raleigh Beltline is likely to have a huge impact on the Wake County School system. About 20 percent of schools may be forced to change their start times and bus routes next year.
Though construction is not expected to reach its peak until late 2014, Wake County school administrators and board members are already considering what changes they may need to make.
Also known as the Fortify project, the road work will include the reconstruction of an 11.5 mile stretch of I-40 and I-440 to remove and replace weakening roadway material. The multi-phased project is running now through late 2016.
Here’s what you need to know about possible changes:
- Phase I of the project is expected to have minimal impact to the school system.
- Phase II, expected to begin in late 2014, will have a much heavier impact.
- 223 school buses travel on roads that will be affected by Phase II.
- Re-routing options are limited.
- The school system's bus depot off the I-40 exit for Rock Quarry Road is at the heart of Phase II.
- District costs will go up because the school system pays bus drivers by the hour, and travel times may increase with traffic jams and closed lanes.
- Administrators are expected to recommend changes in bus routes and school start/dismissal times for the 2014-15 school year by the end of March.
School administrators will have to decide whether to implement school time and bus route changes at the start of the next school year or wait until Phase II begins. Because the exact start date of Phase II is unknown and could even begin as late as spring 2015, they will have to make decisions based on incomplete information.
Wake County School Board C chairwoman Christine Kushner says the county will need to look for creative solutions.
"We are going to need think very carefully about how this [construction] affects start times, how it affects attendance, tardiness, those are very key factors in student achievement,” she said. “We’re going to need to focus on how to get our students to school on time and ready to learn.”