Why some Wake high schools have lost locker space, but middle schools will keep them

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Wake County middle school students won’t lose the long-time rite of passage of getting their own locker.

Wake County school planners had looked at reducing or eliminating student lockers at middle schools and high schools to free up the space for other uses. But Wake school officials said last week they won’t reduce the number of lockers in middle schools as part of the district’s building and renovation program.

Wake will also provide some multi-size lockers that students can use to store larger objects.

“I’m glad we’re keeping our lockers in our middle schools, because some parents like that,” school board member Roxie Cash said at last week’s facilities committee meeting.

For years, parents have prepared elementary school students for the transition to middle school by showing them how to use a combination lock for their new school locker.

But lockers take up space for things that can be used for what’s called “collaborative learning spaces” or “learning commons.” These are areas set aside for students to work in groups.

In recent years, Wake has reduced the number of lockers in new and existing high schools to half the student capacity. The unused locker space at existing high schools has been converted to learning commons, according to Elizabeth Sharpe, the district’s director of facility planning and design.

Middle schools can relocate lockers, without reducing the number, to add more learning commons spaces, Sharpe said.

Schools surveyed on locker use

Wake surveyed middle school and high school principals and teachers about student locker use. A far higher percentage of middle school students use lockers compared to high schools, according to the survey respondents.

76% of respondents said middle school students visit their lockers during classroom changes daily compared to 15% of high school students.

7% said middle school students don’t use lockers at all compared to 47% of high school students.

Several reasons were given for why lockers weren’t used: students prefer to keep their items with them, lockers aren’t conveniently located, there’s not enough time between class changes, corridors are too crowded during class changes and lockers are too small.

In response, Wake will convert some lockers to multi-sized lockers where students can store items like athletic gear, band instruments, costumes and projects. School board member Karen Carter thanked district staff for adding the bigger lockers.

“I have seen students struggle year after year and they can’t fit projects in, or athletic gear and there’s nowhere to put it so I think this is a need, and I’m glad to see it being addressed,” Carter said.

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