By Bea Wunston
Pittsboro, NC – Projections for student population growth over next 10-years prompt planning for new facilities.
“The recent announcements surrounding VinFast and FedEx moving into the Moncure area (TIP Megasite) is expected to have a major impact on the Chatham County Schools student population across the district.”*
A presentation was given by OREd (Operations Research & Education Laboratory of NC State) as well as Mr. Chris Blice, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, at the Chatham Board of Education’s Regular meeting in July 2022. At that meeting, Mr. Blice shared a preliminary course of action based on an analysis of the OREd updated data. The presentation, which was for informational purposes and did not require a vote by the board, focused on the anticipated impact on Chatham Park North and South Villages over the next ten years.
Chatham Park developers expect “Southern Village” section to be completed earlier than originally planned.
Despite the significant increase over previous forecasts, the population growth rate estimates given by OREd at the July 18, 2022 presentation were characterized as “conservative.”
OREd forecast expects roughly 3,000 students to be added over next 10 years.
This numerical prediction is 3 times greater than their February 2022 estimate of about 1,000 students added over 10 years.
Forecast shows severe overcrowding for K-8 students if no new facilities are built.
Which existing schools serve Chatham Park residents?
The slide below shows the schools which are currently zoned for Chatham Park residents. The K-8 assignments for Chatham Park Southern Village have not been officially determined by the Board of Education.
OREd predicts 4 schools will be beyond capacity within 10 years.
The most recent Operations Research & Education Laboratory (OREd) evaluation of the schools currently zoned for Chatham Park shows Perry Harrison Elementary, Moncure School (K-8), Chatham Grove Elementary, and Margaret Pollard Middle will be most impacted by the influx of Chatham Park resident students within the decade.
Mr. Blice stated, “10 years from now, Moncure will be the second-largest school in the district. Wow, never thought I’d say those words.”
According to the present modeling, Perry Harrison Elementary and Moncure School would see the most extreme growth rate. At the 10-year mark, the predicted students to capacity ratio at Perry Harrison Elementary is 180%, and at Moncure School it is 300%.
Mr. Blice also indicated that Margaret Pollard Middle School is facing the most urgent capacity issues. In spite of a newly installed 6-classroom pod, Pollard will exceed capacity again within 2 years.**
Newly built and renovated school buildings are on the horizon.
Multiple new elementary schools, additions to current schools, and a complete rebuild of a current facility are being considered by CCS administrators.
Possible courses of Action outlined by Mr. Chris Blice:
See the full presentation linked in reference section below for details.
- 2 new elementary schools to be built in Chatham Park, 1 in Northern Village & 1 in Southern Village
- Central Services South to be converted back to classrooms at George Moses Horton Middle School
- Demolition and rebuild of Moncure School, building new school on same site with students temporarily diverted to new Chatham Park Southern Village school
- Permanent addition of 8 classrooms to Margaret Pollard Middle School.
- No proposal yet to address Chatham Grove Elementary capacity
- No changes to Seaforth High School and Northwood High School anticipated.
Tentative timeline for design, construction, and facility opening shown below.
School Buildings outside Chatham Park zones will also face capacity issues.
Beyond those zoned for Chatham Park, other schools in the Chatham County School district must deal with student populations which will exceed the capabilities of their present facilities.
North Chatham Elementary and Jordan-Matthews High School have been forecasted by OREd to see the most significant challenges. The July 2022 presentation also included the possibility of alleviating crowding through the use of mobile units where current space (acreage) permits.
Brick-and-Mortar Out-of-Capacity Table with Chatham Park
Upcoming OREd Land Use study will provide greater clarity.
The larger county-wide impacts will require the completion of a more in-depth land-use study, and an update will be presented to the Board in January 2023.
Budget and cost implications were not directly addressed during the July 2022 Board of Education meeting. However, the meeting agenda states, “funding for the construction of new schools and expansion of current schools will need to be secured from Chatham County through the Capital Improvement Plan process.”*
Questions to consider:
- Are Chatham County Schools administrators expecting all incoming Chatham Park students to attend zoned public schools?
- How will the Chatham County Board of Education equitably adjust attendance zones as new schools are built?
- How will the district plan for residential growth outside of Chatham Park?