Scanlon to Currituck officials: Start looking for school site

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Currituck County Manager Dan Scanlon discusses his view that county and school officials need to start planning for a new school during a joint meeting of the Currituck Board of Education and the Currituck Board of Commissioners at the Currituck Cooperative Extension Center Building in Barco, Wednesday. From left, behind Scanlon, are Currituck Planning and Community Development Director Laurie LoCicero and Assistant Planning Director Donna Voliva.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Monday, August 27, 2018

CURRITUCK — With the Currituck schools growing by more than 60 students a year, and projections showing the county could have as many as 1,100 additional school-age children in 20 years, Currituck’s manager is recommending county officials move soon to secure a site for a new school.

During a joint meeting last week of the Currituck Board of Commissioners and Board of Education, County Manager Dan Scanlon advised both boards it was critical not just to identify a potential school site but to also purchase the property.

“That's the conversation that should be going on because you've got time,” Scanlon said. “It's not tomorrow, but if you don't start, tomorrow will be here tomorrow.”

To underscore his point about not waiting, Scanlon recalled that when the schools needed a new elementary school in Shawboro, the school board wanted to build one near Tulls Creek and Poyners roads. The school ended up being built off N.C. Highway 34 near Snowden Road, however.

“We started too late (with the land-purchasing process), reality caught us and we had to go find a willing seller,” he said.

Scanlon, who will be retiring as county manager next summer, believes the county has about a two-to-three-year window to find and buy property for the new school. That’s plenty of time, he suggested, if officials acknowledge now the reality that a new school is needed.

“We've got time to be strategic. We've got time to work this out. ... I think it's incumbent upon both boards to agree and to do it,” he said.

Scanlon also suggested the boards start discussing the future expansion of Currituck High School as well.

Scanlon’s remarks followed a presentation by Currituck officials showing the county’s growth trends, particularly in Moyock, where construction of new homes has taken off again. A growth in home construction boosts school enrollment because younger families with school-age children are typically the homebuyers.

Currituck Planning and Community Development Director Laurie LoCicero told commissioners and school board members that building permit data show that in Moyock over the past five years, an average of 55 occupancy permits a year have been issued for single-family homes. She said that number is about 53 in Crawford Township, which includes Sligo, the Currituck Courthouse area, Maple, Barco and Shawboro.

Currituck Assistant Planning Director Donna Voliva also presented data at the meeting showing the Currituck County Schools are now seeing an increase of 61 students annually.

More than half of that growth appears to be occurring at three elementary schools in the northern end of the county. Moyock, Central and Shawboro elementary schools have seen an average annual increase of 32 students over the past 5½ years, Voliva’s data show.

By comparison, the average annual increase at Griggs and Jarvisburg elementary schools during that timeframe was about eight students. At Currituck High School, the average annual increase was about 18 or 19 students during the 5½-year period.

Voliva's presentation also included what's known as a “heat map,” which uses addresses and transportation data to show population clusters. The map showed concentrations of students are coming from three areas of Moyock, as well as the Grandy area in the lower part of the county. Voliva noted, however, that construction of new homes isn't happening in the lower part of the county as it is elsewhere.

Using “Imagine Currituck,” the county’s still-in-development long-range masterplan as a source, Voliva also showed three possible growth scenarios for schools on the Currituck mainland between 2016 and 2036.

A “low growth” scenario shows the schools growing by 617 students — about 31 a year — over 20 years. The “medium growth” scenario shows the schools adding 820 students — about 41 a year — over the 20-year period. The “high growth” scenario shows 1,122 students — 56 a year — being added over 20 years.

Following the presentations and Scanlon’s remarks, both commissioners and school board members generally seemed to agree that growth will require the county to build a new school. The question seemed to be how long the county has before the school is needed.

“It's going to happen,” Board of Education member Janet Rose said. “It's just a matter of how quickly.”

Commissioner Paul Beaumont suggested the boards get started soon on securing a site for the new school.

“Now's the time to start doing this, because the sooner we box this one out and get it in the pipeline and moving, that's one less thing that we have to worry about, because that path is already built,” he said.

In an interview after the meeting, Board of Education Chairman Bill Dobney said the new school likely would be an elementary school and probably built in the Moyock area. He cautioned that he was only speaking for himself, however.

Both boards agreed to meet again sometime in mid-November. Dobney said he was pleased the boards are discussing future plans for Currituck.

“Planning is much better than reacting to a situation,” he said.