The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system is saying “thanks, but no thanks” to a proposed school site offered by Obey Creek developers.
The proposed Obey Creek site was marked as a potential school location several years ago on Chapel Hill’s land use plan.
Todd LoFrese, assistant superintendent for support services at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, noted that in April 2014, the Board of Education approved a resolution for the Town Council to recognize that potential site, and to include that as party of negotiations with developers.
Later, the Council asked CHCCS if the school site offered by developers should be reserved.
The Board of Education has now come to a decision regarding Obey Creek.
“At a recent board meeting, the board passed a resolution thanking the Town Council for honoring that process,” said LoFrese. “The next was to communicate that we weren’t in reserving a school site. There are some challenges with the proposed area that was offered to the district as a school site.”
One of those development challenges, said LoFrese, is that the school would be difficult to access.
“There’d be an extensive bridge that would need to be constructed to cross over the creek,” said LoFrese.
In the final part of the resolution, the Board of Educations expressed that the Chapel Hill- Carrboro school system has other facility needs to address.
“We would be open to looking at other potential locations for where a school could be built,” said LoFrese. “We didn’t specify that it would be in the area that is currently proposed for development by Obey Creek. And the board also communicated that we have 10 older school facilities that have a lot of financial need.”
LoFrese said that it’s too early to estimate the impact the development will have on the school system, without a hard number of residential units to consider.
Right now, however, there are some spot-crowding problems that could be fixed, he said.
“Smith Middle School rises to the top of the list in my mind,” said LoFrese. “We had to close the school this year to new enrollment, even if you lived in the Smith zone. So we have some families who are being transported to either McDougle or Phillips, or Culbreth.”
LoFrese said there is still some breathing room at the elementary and high school levels. The next projected need for a middle school is in 2023.
In the meantime, said LoFrese, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro system would like to expand older schools, while performing long-needed renovations.
That, he said, would further put off the need for new schools. He added that it could also create the equivalent of an entire new elementary school.