Some say crowded schools are affecting Holly Springs housing market

aspecht@newsobserver.comMay 15, 2014 

  • Crowding at Holly Springs schools

    Holly Grove Elementary: 111 percent capacity

    Holly Ridge Elementary: 132 percent capacity

    Holly Springs Elementary: 135 percent capacity

    Holly Grove Middle: 84 percent capacity

    Holly Ridge Middle: 119 percent capacity

    Holly Springs High School: 131 percent capacity

    Source: Wake County schools

— Crowded schools in this town are causing families to think twice about moving here, according to local real-estate agents.

All three of Holly Springs’ elementary schools will have capped enrollments in the fall, which means new students who move into the schools’ attendance zones could be assigned elsewhere. Holly Springs High School is already capped, and the enrollment limit will continue in the fall.

Wake County school leaders put in place caps for 21 schools for the 2014-15 school year to ease crowding and shift new students to schools that have open seats. Students already enrolled are not affected.

But prospective students of Holly Springs, Holly Grove and Holly Ridge elementary schools and Holly Springs High who move into the attendance zones after March 4 aren’t guaranteed a seat at that school.

As a result, some Realtors say interest in Holly Springs neighborhoods such as Sunset Ridge, Wescott and Holly Glen has declined significantly.

“I have personally had three families decide not to come to Holly Springs because they didn’t know where their child was gonna go to school,” said Walter Fike of Weichert Realtors.

“It’s not a good situation,” he said.

Lisa Galvin, an agent with Allen Tate, said she has recently talked to prospective home buyers in Ohio and Texas who have done research about Wake County schools “like you would not believe.” Those families, she said, are now shifting their interest to places like Apex, Cary and Fuquay-Varina.

“(Home buyers) say, ‘Why would I pay Holly Springs prices if my kids can’t go to Holly Springs schools?’ ” she said.

Holly Springs saw major growth for years because many schools in Cary were too crowded to handle more students, Galvin said.

“When schools were capped in west Cary, I’d tell them about Holly Springs,” she said.

Cary has had a handful of capped schools for years, but new students are often assigned to other schools in town.

In the fall, Alston Ridge Elementary, Mills Park Elementary and Mills Park Middle will be capped. But families can choose to attend overflow schools in Cary.

Cary is seeing so much growth that town leaders have wondered if they should slow development near capped schools in the western part of town. Council members recently told Pulte Homes that they’d likely shoot down a proposal for 168 homes on Green Hope School Road unless the company reduces the density of the project.

It’s unclear how capped enrollments at Holly Springs schools will affect growth and new development.

New elementary school students in Holly Springs will likely be assigned to Lincoln Heights or Herbert Akins in Fuquay-Varina.

New high school students could attend Middle Creek, which is seven miles northeast of Holly Springs High.

Mayor Dick Sears says he’s only “mildly concerned” about the issue because school caps don’t block access, they merely limit it.

“The schools are labeled capped, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in,” he said. “The (enrollment) numbers, the waiting list, change every day.”

Although a school is capped, there may be seats available in certain under-enrolled grade levels, he said.

Sears said overcrowding will get better soon. He pointed out that the school system plans to open a new elementary school in Holly Springs in 2016 and a new high school in Apex that may pull up to 300 Apex students out of Holly Springs High.

“The situation is not as bad as people have made it out to be,” he said.

But Realtors Galvin and Fike, who live in Holly Springs, worry about property values falling in the meantime.

If someone in Holly Springs wants to sell their home in the next year, “The house may not sell for true market value,” Fike said. “That’s how it’s going to affect our community.”

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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