And the magic number is... 420

At the Carrboro board meeting tonight, there was a presentation and public comment period concerning the new "Carrboro Senior High School". One of the striking things about the initial plan is that, despite adhering to environmentally sound building design principles, the overall layout of the school still encourages the same kind of sprawl as usual. There was a disconnect between the idea of "green building" and "sustainable" development practices. For instance, the school will be extremely energy efficient and will even catch rainwater to flush toilets, but there will be 420 parking spaces and the current layout of the road system puts the nearest bus stop to the school much further away than most of the parking spaces. In a world where many of our life lessons are learned in high school, it seems like the school board would be interested in designing a school that encouraged students to use public transit or bike to school and that left a small footprint on the landscape. Instead, the initial design seems to suggest the same cookie-cutter style and doesn't seem to account for the fact that the school site is currently already on the bus path for the most heavily used bus line in the state.

To further frustrate observers, Alderman Jacquie Gist and Mayor Mike Nelson repeatedly explained that 420 was way too many parking spaces for the board's liking while Steve Scroggs, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, suggested multiple times that 420 was as low as they could go. I'm not sensing a whole lot of interest in compromise here. It will be interesting to see how this flies. Regardless, I think we have a choice as a community to invest in a school that fits our needs while teaching our kids about sustainability or to invest in a school that demonstrates that our community doesn't practice what it preaches. I'm for practicing what we preach.


yes sojournor --

and in 2013 when both the county and town schools are full as projected with (3 new schools that don't exist yet) we can ship them to durham , chatham and alamance.

Why waste money on building new schools right. just find vacancy to ship them to - who cares about minimizing miles driven and easy access to kids in an ice storm or lockdown.

If that doesn't work maybe we can look into mandatory birth control to really not have to deal with schools for more kids. Why think Long term when we can be myopic?

Maybe we need to reduce the number of students in the District, by sending those students who do not live in the District to the County Schools.

I am glad that one bus route runs past the site for the 3rd HS, but how many routes are there going out into the surrounding neighborhoods? The sound-bite about the 'most heavily used bus route in NC' ignores the point that the route ends at a park-and-ride lot. And service to college student apartment complexes is not relevant to the kind of families which have high school students. The sound-bite does not tell us ANYTHING about the practicality of neighborhood access. When I look at the CH Transit website,

it looks like there might be hundreds of families within convenient walk of the bus route, but hundreds more for whom it would be completely impractical due to lack of sidewalks, and lack of bus routes.The county has an excellent GIS mapping capability which could show this, and the town aldermen should demand that it be used so that they can understand EXACTLY what the real situation is. By all means encourage the development of compact, walk-able communities. But let's not imagine that the development is further along than it actually is. Let's not turn this HS into a nightmare of people parking on the grass, or halfway off the road into a ditch, etc. I suspect that 2-3 years after completion, we will be ready for the 400-student expansion, and maybe at that point the idea of not adding parking spaces (normally added to accomodate the new teachers and students) could be matched with an expansion of neighborhood bus service, paid by taxes.

I don't think there is a site plan yet, but the school is going to be at the end of Rock Haven Road. Rock Haven is accessed off of Smith Level Road as you head out of town. It's basically at the very edge of town as you go out just before you hit the University Lake watershed.

Rickie--I understand your point, but you need to remember that CHCCS schools serve many students who do not live within city limits. For kids in my neighborhood, driving is the only option if they want to participate in zero hour classes or after schools programs--unless the school district decides to expand the school bus program.


What's the flaw with leaving the green cans we have as other week pickup.

People who want weekly pickup pay for the full cost of a new tar heel blue trash can and that one gets picked up opposing weeks and those guys/gals pay the extra revenue stream the county is seeking.

Actually rewarding people for generating less trash!

Anybody have links to a site plan? Where is the school going to be? What specifics are available to anyone who didn't attend the meeting?

Rickie --

It's good to keep watch over issues like how dependent something is on the automobile versus other forums. If I understand correctly this school should eventually expand to accomodate 1200 students -- will the parking expand or is that the final number?

I think our schools make a very strong effort to try their best.

Building schools in relatively high density areas like southern village and meadowmont and creating walk zones for these and other schools is part of that effort. sometimes safety - e.g. a heavily traveled road prevents a walk zone from even close residents. (I don't know if you have kids -- but parents I talk to are thrilled to be in a walk zone because it prevents them from being bused/redistricted farther away - so parents will ususally advocate for them. Also, in the future trying to build schools as close as possible to populations is part of that philosophy.

I didn't see anything in the CH news about this? Was it in the herald or is this not newsworthy?

As an aside which the editor may slap me for -- I'm trying to reconcile the treatment of this school with rain water to flush toilets that will be on a chapel hill free transit bus line with the free pass the commissioenrs are getting for the siting of a soccer megaplex that will be dependent on the single occupancy automobile far away from most users. Apparently much of the "soccer" community thinks this is not sited well - but there hasn't been enough news coverage or maps for me to have a fully informed opinion.

The recycling tax is another commissioner issue which seems exactly the WRONG direction for the environment as well as progressive politics (fees are more regressive than property tax).

I wish people would scrutinize everything the commissioners fund/do from an environmental perspective not just CHCC schools.

But vigilance for this school and other is a good thing -- I am just mystified how other things slide under the radar. Why can't they just offer color coded trash cans so that people who are really good at recycling can pay less and get pick up every other week? Is it that hard to do?

Ricki, thank you so much for your point tonight re. the site design: that the bus stop would be farther away from the building than any of the parking spaces. Priorities, priorities.

I've been pleading for a change in the alignment of the connecting road since it first appeared. It shortchanges both the school and the community.

In preliminary discussions with the TAB the consensus was the alignment should be changed. But then, we are just an "advisory" board.

I'm not proposing to exclude parking from the site. The board discussed at length the fact that there are many kids who have commitments such as internships, after school activities, etc. Luckily, we have a very compact community where many kids who have flexible schedules could still take the bust to UNC or other points in town without inconvenience. Students and faculty at UNC have adjusted to this situation quite admirably. Currently somewhere around 30-40% of students at the other high schools drive to school and another 30-40% are dropped off (I can't remember the exact number quoted). What percentage of students drive or are dropped off at UNC?

Oh, and the J bus already runs from 6am to midnight on weekdays. I think there would really need to be a push to have the J bus run every 15 minutes and to have "trippers" at the beginning and end of the school day to accomodate the rush of students entering and exiting the school. And weekend service would be more important too.

My high school experience involved a lot of activity in performance arts. Sometimes we had at least a couple hundred students at school in the evenings for rehearsals. Then there were performances themselves, which drew many more. Sports have parallel concerns.

Unless bus lines are going to run frequently and up to midnight, 7 days a week, and then run all around the school district in time for those kids to get a fraction of the sleep they need for the next school day, cars will have to be part of extracurriculars. I don't know if 420 are necessary, but we're talking about more than rich kids who prefer not to ride the bus to school.

Creating a smart school is about more than just parking spaces and environmental issues. Here's an article that describes the issues of creating small schools (sometimes schools within schools) and district administration:


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