Published: Nov 23, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Nov 21, 2011 10:53 PM
CHAPEL HILL - A new elementary school is on its way to Chapel Hill's Northside neighborhood.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners unanimously gave the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools the go-ahead last week to build a new 3-story, $21.4 million elementary school between Caldwell and McMasters streets.
The new school, the district's 11th elementary, will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified and will open in August, 2013.
The school board approved $2.1 million for the school earlier this month and asked commissioners to expedite the approval process as it nears the Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance enrollment limit.
The ordinance restricts residential building when the district runs out of room for new students.
The county plans to reimburse the district after it gets financing.
The county will borrow $20.6 million and pay $1.7 million, or 1.13 cents on the property tax rate, in debt service per year beginning in 2012-13. The county will pay any expenses if financing is delayed.
The school board plans to request a school district tax rate increase of 2 or 3 cents per $100 of assessed property value to fund the additional operating cost of the new school. Property owners in the district pay a special tax to support the school system in addition to their county and town taxes.Freeze avoided
The SAPFO elementary school limit is 5,506 students. The current enrollment is 5,464, 42 students away from triggering a building freeze.
"Traditionally we see growth at the elementary level throughout the school year," said Kevin Morgenstein Fuerst, coordinator for student enrollment.
During the recent elections, some wondered whether the county would speed the approval process or risk freezing new residential construction
"The public clearly has its answer that we are going forward with Elementary 11 and that we will not have to invoke SAPFO and hold off on building permits," Commissioners Chairwoman Bernadette Pelissier said.
The new school won't solve immediate crowding issues, though.
The district has spent $300,000 to create more space in some schools and added a mobile classroom at Glenwood Elementary, said Todd LoFrese, assistant superintendent.
"We have some schools that are so tight on space, we're going to need to take some action before the (new) school can come online," he said.
Commissioners asked staff to prepare next steps for building the school, but with the board's vote last week, the county will collect bids for construction.
The county will raze the building already on the site which had been used for county mental health services. The site also housed the old Orange County Training School which black students attended during segregation.