By Bea Wunston
Pittsboro, North Carolina – Student population growth projections over the next 10 years prompt plans for new facilities.
“Recent announcements regarding VinFast and FedEx moving to the Moncure area (TIP Megasite) are expected to have a major impact on the student population of Chatham County Schools throughout the District.”*
A presentation was given by OREd (Operations Research & Education Laboratory of NC State) as well as Mr. Chris Blice, Deputy Superintendent of Operations, at the regular meeting of the Chatham Board of Education in July 2022. At this meeting , Mr. Blice shared a preliminary action plan based on an analysis of updated data from OREd. The presentation, which was for informational purposes and did not require a council vote, focused on the expected impact on Chatham Park North and South Villages over the next ten years.
Chatham Park developers expect the “Southern Village” section to be completed sooner than originally planned.
Despite the significant increase compared to previous forecasts, the population growth rate estimates given by OREd during the July 18, 2022 presentation were described as “conservative”.
OREd’s forecast calls for the addition of approximately 3,000 students over the next 10 years.
This numerical prediction is 3 times greater than their February 2022 estimate of around 1,000 students added over 10 years.
Forecasts show severe overcrowding for K-8 students if no new facilities are built.
What existing schools serve Chatham Park residents?
The slide below shows the schools that are currently zoned for Chatham Park residents. K-8 assignments for Chatham Park Southern Village have not been officially determined by the Board of Education.
OREd predicts that 4 schools will be beyond their capacity within 10 years.
The most recent Operational Research and Education Laboratory (OREd) assessment of schools currently zoned for Chatham Park shows that Perry Harrison Elementary, Moncure School (K-8), Chatham Grove Elementary and Margaret Pollard Middle will be the most affected by the influx of Chatham Student Park residents over the decade.
Mr Blice said: “In 10 years, Moncure will be the second largest school in the district. Wow, I never thought I would say those words.
Based on current modeling, Perry Harrison Elementary and Moncure School would experience the most extreme growth rate. After 10 years, the projected student-to-capacity ratio at Perry Harrison Elementary is 180% and at Moncure School it is 300%.
Blice also said Margaret Pollard Middle School faces the most pressing capacity issues. Despite the installation of a newly installed 6-classroom module, Pollard will exceed capacity again within 2 years.**
Newly constructed and renovated school buildings loom on the horizon.
Several new elementary schools, additions to current schools, and a complete reconstruction of a current facility are being considered by CCS administrators.
Possible courses of action described by Mr. Chris Blice:
See the full presentation linked in the reference section below for more details.
- 2 new elementary schools will be built in Chatham Park, 1 in Northern Village and 1 in Southern Village
- Central Services South will be converted into classrooms at George Moses Horton Middle School
- Demolition and reconstruction of Moncure School, construction of a new school on the same site with pupils temporarily diverted to the new Chatham Park Southern Village School
- Permanent addition of 8 classrooms to Margaret Pollard Middle School.
- No capacity proposals at this time for Chatham Grove Elementary
- No changes to Seaforth High School and Northwood High School are expected.
Tentative schedule for design, construction and opening of facilities shown below.
School buildings outside Chatham Park areas will also face capacity issues.
Beyond those zoned for Chatham Park, other schools in the Chatham County School District are dealing with student populations that will exceed the capabilities of their current facilities.
According to the OREd forecast, North Chatham Elementary and Jordan-Matthews High School will experience the greatest challenges. The July 2022 presentation also included the possibility of reducing overcrowding through the use of mobile units where current space (area) permits.
Table out of Brick-and-Mortar ability with Chatham Park
The upcoming OREd study on land use will provide more clarity.
Larger county-wide impacts will require a more in-depth land use study to be completed, and an update will be presented to Council in January 2023.
The budgetary and financial implications were not directly addressed at the July 2022 Board of Education meeting. However, the meeting agenda states that “funding for the construction of new schools and the expansion of current schools will need to be obtained from Chatham County through the Capital Improvement Plan process.”*
Questions to consider:
- Do Chatham County Schools administrators expect all incoming Chatham Park students to attend zone public schools?
- How will the Chatham County School Board fairly adjust attendance areas as new schools are built?
- How will the district plan for residential growth outside of Chatham Park?
* Draft Chatham School Board Meeting Agenda, 2022-07-22.
**Chatham County School Board meeting7-18-2022, recording
IPSAC OREd Update 2021-2022 (Presented February 14, 2022)
OREd 2020-2021 land use planning study (Presented March 8, 2021)