BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 27, 2009
BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 28, 2009

One-school compromise proposed for Scott King Rd -- but will the BOCC bite?

Although last night's BOCC meeting was a blissfully-short one hour session, one of the key items originally on that agenda -- a discussion of plans for the Scott King Road school site -- had already been moved to the May 4 commissioners' work session.

A proposal by DPS to acquire a 46-acre tract along the road elicited controversy from some South Durham neighborhood activists earlier this spring after the school system proposed building two schools on the 46 acre site.

As the N&O noted earlier this year, the BOCC rejected a plan for a 71-home subdivision on the site, which neighbors consider ecologically sensitive, being transected by two streams bordering Jordan Lake. Additionally, Scott King Rd. has been proposed as a retrenched urban growth area boundary in a move that would pull back the UGA line from the Chatham Co. border.

DPS, the landowner, and representatives for Northeast Creek Streamwatch reached a compromise recently, however, which would call for only one school to be built on the property; an elementary and middle school were initially proposed.

Neighborhood activist Melissa Rooney is encouraging residents to support the compromise position, noting in an email that "two schools would be horrible for traffic in this area (both around and through existing neighborhoods)."

"Such traffic would be detrimental to our lifestyles, but also to the safety of cyclists and pedestrians in our area. It would also have too much detrimental impact on this environmentally sensitive area," she adds.

The wrinkle? It's not clear the BOCC would support spending $2.9 million on a parcel that would support one school, as opposed to two.

Next week's discussions will be an interesting one, especially for a County Commission that's re-added Joe Bowser -- who's rumbled during earlier budget discussions that Durham spends generously already on school capital projects, a claim not entirely borne out by cross-county comparisons, though Durham does indeed spend richly on local funding for operational expenses.

The lobbying arrives simultaneous with pleas from Rooney and a number of Parkwood residents for the City to tread carefully on rumblings of future rec center cutbacks. Rooney and others have raised concerns that the new South Durham branch library site at Lowes Grove will be inaccessible to cyclists and neighborhoods, unlike the current Parkwood branch library, and would like to see a community option placed in the heart of Parkwood.

A 2003 master plan called for new rec centers to be located on the periphery of Durham to serve growing suburban areas -- though as BCR correspondent Erik Landfried noted in comments here last week, an early 1990s-era master plan had called for the Walltown rec center only now being built after decades of lobbying.

Comments

FineSwineWishHeWereMine

before we all go insane with swine flu panic, this is worth a read (entertaining, too!):


http://gawker.com/5229395/swine-flu-panic-bullshit

KYjulep

I may be mistaken but wouldn't a "neighborhood school" create a more friendly walking and biking environment? Durham is in desperate need of schools in the south part of town. I am disappointed to find that a group of people in my community would be so quick to say "not in my backyard" to a school project that would bring back that local neighborhood feeling. Here we have the chance to keep our children from having to attend school in a trailer park and be bused across the county, which wastes a tremendous amount of money, gasoline and time. Haven't we learned anything from the Wake County school debacale? It is a shame that such individuals choose to jeopardize my child's education because they are anti-development! The same folks were anti-Southpoint Mall, but I bet they have no problem running into the mall to grab that last minute gift or collecting the property taxes that Southpoint mall generates.

Kevin Davis

@KY: Not a debate for this post, necessarily, but there's lots of folks (myself included) who have real problems with the concepts of "neighborhood schools" as articulated too frequently, and would love to see what Wake Co. is doing become the model for schools.

Put bluntly, when we move places like Wake Co. back to neighborhood schools, I suspect schools in poorer neighborhoods will get (on average) less-experienced teachers, fewer resources, fewer volunteers, etc.

While Wake's policy doesn't work perfectly, it seems to show that Wake achieves the same results as Char-Meck (which a decade ago ended a desegregation program that was a model for Boston and other cities) -- but at significantly lower cost per pupil.

Then again, the Wakers who are whining over the busing/student assignment systems will, I'm sure, be the first parents to whine when their taxes go up to pay for extra remedial resources to support failing schools. Of course, the Obama administration (per the NYT) is thinking of a much simpler strategy, it seems: requiring school districts to reassign top teachers from "successful" (typically wealthy) public schools to "less successful" (typically poorer) schools. I'm sure they'll also love that.

BackRowSally

Heard an in-depth presentation by a member of the state board of education and Judge Manning, the old firebrand district court judge who rules on many of the educational court cases that come before the court and is a champion for the rights of NC children to get a decent and equal education. Both agreed on one thing (and probably one thing only): however much some of the parents in Wake County may not like it, the school system there is working and working very, very well. Test scores prove it. The track records of their students prove it. In fact, both called it the most successful school system in the state. If it were me, given those endorsements, I would not change a thing!

South Durhamite

The issue here is not whether to have a school on the site, it is whether there should be TWO schools on the site.

It's nice and romantic to envision neighborhood schools to which students could walk, but the blunt fact is that neither the state, city, or county (yes, I know it's not their responsibility) have seen fit to provide sidewalks or bike lanes in this part of the county (except for a token effort at sidewalks and bike lanes Parkwood).

The issue is that two schools would turn the site into nothing more than ballfields, buildings and a parking lot, destroying about 10-15 acres of forest in the process and affecting a site that is in an area that has been designated as a natural heritage area because of its inventory of its flora and fauna. It certainly would be nice if DPS and the BOCC had the foresight to use this site as a resource for learning instead of threatening it.

And it is a little irritating to folks in South Durham to continually be beset with charges that concerns about sensible growth are "anti-development". What they are are anti-pillaging.

tina

Before we throw the baby out with the bath water, is there an economically feasible way that 2 schools could be built in an environmentally sensitive way on this site? I would love to see part of the natural area preserved and the school could possibly become an environmental magnet school. (Maybe it could draw some kids from the surrounding neighborhoods, and some via a lottery magnet.) Hopefully this would attract kids from lower performing schools out to the burbs where there are more parent volunteers etc. As far as sport fields for middle school goes, why not have the kids use the fields at Herndon Park. Many of those fields are unused during the day. And after hours sports might be able to work w/ parks and rec to use those fields. Herndon Park sits on Scott King so side walks could connect the park and the school. I'm not sure if the school itself could tie into the ATT but you can get the ATT at Herndon Park and if there is a side walk to the school from there, many neighborhoods on the ATT could start bike "carpools" thus cutting down the the number of cars on the road.

Dream or smart growth possibility?


BTW, Kevin I agree that higher performing schools in areas of higher social economics do typically have more parent volunteers, thus more resources. But here in Durham we are very lucky in that many schools in lower socioeconomic areas have volunteers from Duke & NCCU. These college students are making a wonderful and positive impact on our community, providing volunteer manpower and positive role models for these kids. Also, I just want to note that inexperienced teachers do not always mean lower quality teachers. Our school gets many new teachers fresh out of local colleges. 99% of these individuals are dynamite! They have energy, fresh ideas, and dedication.

mcwhite

Count me among those that are frequently irritated at the crowd in our community that choose to push their "smart growth" agenda on our neighborhoods with absolutely no regard to the future of our community or children. The 'smart growth' crowd chooses to oppose anything that will prevent progress in South Durham; be it a school, office development, or high density residental development. "Smart growth" chooses to forget the additional jobs, tax revenue, and advantages to our children that these developments can create.

I do not doubt that there are true "smart growth" proponents out there, but your cause is far too often highjacked by the anti-development crowd that opposes development of any kind, at any time, anywhere. This is a classic case of promoting an agenda using any means available.

Several BOCC members deserve to be applauded for their stance on the 751 Development survey several weeks ago. Further I'd like to point out that there is a good portion of the population that is in favor of growth in our corner of the county. It would do everyone well to note that there is more than one opinion on development in this section of Durham. Far too often the storyline pits the 'smart growth'-minded residents of South Durham versus the evil developers. For this South Durhamite, that couldn't be further from the case. I applaud Cmmrs. Bowser and Page for their stance. I did not vote for them last time around, but I will certainly do so next time.

Erik

The term "smart growth" is not being used correctly in this conversation at all - indeed, it very rarely is, which is part of why it gets such a bad rep in some circles.

I encourage everyone to check out this website for moe details on what "smart growth" really is: http://www.smartgrowth.org/about/default.asp

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