Two new Chatham County schools on schedule to open in 2020 & 2021

Pittsboro, NC – A couple of Chatham County Schools construction projects are on pace to track with the district’s growth. Chatham Grove Elementary, Seaforth High remain on schedule

Below is the transcript of a conversation with Chatham County Schools Director of Maintenance and Construction, Randy Drumheller on the progress of the new school construction.

John McCann: Welcome to the Chatham County Schools Notebook. I’m John McCann, public relationships coordinator for Chatham County Schools. I’m joined by Randy Drumheller. He’s the director of maintenance and construction for Chatham County Schools. In other words, a lot of times when we have problems here in the school district, Mr. Drumheller can fix them. Mr. Drumheller, thank you for letting me stop by your office.

Chatham County Schools Director of Maintenance and Construction, Randy Drumheller

Randy: I’m happy to be here, John.

John: I mentioned problems, I use that term loosely, but we actually have a “problem.” It’s a good problem when you think about it, but a problem nonetheless. We’re running out of space. We have a good school system, a world-class school system if you ask the folks at Advanced Ed, which is an accrediting organization. So, a good school system is good for growth, and Chatham County is growing. People are moving here and becoming part of what we have going on Chatham County schools, so we got to have somewhere to put them, Mr. Drumheller, and you’re helping us toward that end by overseeing the construction of an elementary school and a high school. Those are your babies, Mr. Drumheller. Do you have names for them?

Randy Drumheller: Yes, Chatham Grove Elementary School. The one on Seaforth Road is Seaforth High School. Chatham Grove is being built for a capacity of 750, and the high school’s being built for a capacity of 1,200 with a core of 1,400.

John: Now, Seaforth is scheduled to open in 2021, so we have a little time for that. So, let’s spend the next few moments talking about Chatham Grove Elementary School that’s scheduled to open in 2020. Has the recent inclement weather impacted the target date?

Randy: Actually no, John. Although the weather has been challenging, it has not impacted our 2020 opening plans at this time. This is due in part to having a schedule with built-in weather days, much like we do for the academic school year and our contractor, Monty’s Construction working longer days and weekends when the weather is good.

John: And just a little bit about Seaforth. Does that project remain on schedule?

Randy: It does. I contribute that to the same thing with Chatham Grove. We’re having built-in weather days and the contractor taking advantage of any good weather, whether it be evenings and weekends.

John: Now, Mr. Drumheller, Chatham County is big, but I understand that does not necessarily mean that there’s plenty of land for schools. Explain that for us.

Randy: John, there are a lot of factors that go into finding suitable land for a school. Obviously, the property has to be in the attendance zone where the capacity is needed, and of sufficient acreage. Those two issues alone narrows the search considerably. An ideal property would have minimal slopes, minimal streams or wetlands, away from manufacturing facilities, and easily accessible to major roadways. Adjacent to municipal water and sewer, and one big factor is the land owner’s willingness to sell. Once all of these factors are considered, the list of available/suitable land gets very narrow.

John: The Chatham Grove site is at 1301 Andrews Store Road in Pittsboro. It’s across from Margaret B. Pollard Middle School. Mr. Drumheller, how did the Chatham Grove site come to be chosen?

Randy: Well, Chatham Grove meets the physical requirements, and it’s located right in the attendance zone that we’re seeing most of our growth.

John: What’s the price tag on that?

Randy: The price tag for the project in all is 33.1 million.

John: Mr. Drumheller, you may find this hard to believe, but it’s actually been a while since I’ve bought a school. Is that the going rate these days?

Randy: It is, it is. And once you consider the land and the school, and the requirements set forth by the state and Department of Public Instruction, we want to make sure that it is a state of the art school and it is energy efficient. And so all of those things come with an upfront price tag, but pay off in the long run.

John: There was talk about tariffs on steel potentially impacting construction prices in this country. Did we incur any of that as it relates to our building projects?

Randy: Well, that is something that I can’t put my finger on, of whether it affected our prices. However, although specific prices weren’t identified, price increases, I feel strongly that the possibility of future increases played a significant role when the contractors were developing their bids.

John : Will Chatham Grove boast any particular features that’ll make it really, really special?

Randy: Yes. The school will be LEED Silver, and will contain features such as geothermal, LED lighting, lighting controls, and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

John: What is LEED? L-E-E-D, LEED?

Randy: LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design. LEED provides a pathway, if you will, to building schools that are environmentally sound, that are energy efficient, and that create good indoor environment.

John: Is that to say some of our older schools probably don’t have that certification, but a newer school Pollard does?

Randy :That’s correct, yes. Pollard was built under LEED also, and that is actually a LEED Gold school.

John: You know, safety is a big deal across the country, particularly as it relates to school. Is there anything unique about the design of Chatham Grove or Seaforth High School that’ll make those buildings particularly safe?

Randy: In today’s environment we have to consider that, but we also don’t want to make our schools feel like camps, if you will. Some of the items that we put in place include a single point of entry for students, and staff, and visitors. Staff will have key cards to readily identify them and unlock the doors. And any visitors will have a staging area where they can only be released by someone in the reception area to the rest of the school.

John: Before I let you go, Mr. Drumheller, I have to ask, considering all the work that you’ve put into these two projects, did we err in not naming at least one of the buildings the Randy Drumheller School?

Randy: Well, thank you for that, John, but I was thinking more along the lines of the John McCann School for Young Journalists. I think that would’ve been perfect.

John: I have no comeback for that. Mr. Drumheller, thank you so much, sir, for joining me on the show.

Randy: You’re welcome, glad to be here.


You can view the interview video here.