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Decision delayed for charter school planned for northern Durham County

This is an artist's rendering of Discovery Charter, a  Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM)-themed charter middle school proposed for Orange Factory Road.
This is an artist's rendering of Discovery Charter, a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM)-themed charter middle school proposed for Orange Factory Road.

The Durham Board of Adjustment has rescheduled a hearing for a minor special-use permit for proposed Discovery Charter School in northern Durham for April 24.

The Board of Adjustment was expected to rule on a permit for the 59.8-acre school site located in the Rural Tier and Rural Residential (RR) zoning district on Tuesday, but Bo Dobrzenski, a planning supervisor with the City-County Planning Department, said the hearing was rescheduled because the required public notice wasn't in compliance.

An educational facility in a residential zoning district requires a minor special-use permit.

A site plan and an exempt plat are also currently under review for the project.

Construction of Discovery Charter, a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM)-themed charter middle school proposed for Orange Factory Road, has been delayed for months after neighbors sued Durham County over the Board of Adjustment's approval of the school site plan.

The neighbors contend the school would increase traffic along the rural road and clog nearby roads that are already well-traveled and too narrow to handle additional traffic.

They have also expressed concern about the potential harm to nearby Little River Reservoir as a result of a 3,000 gallon a day septic field that would be installed in the South Reservoir Wildlife Habitat Area and chemical runoff into the reservoir from sports fields and other cleared areas at the proposed school.

Meanwhile, Discovery Charter officials countered on the school's Facebook page that the septic system is designed for 3,000 gallons per day because of state requirements. Officials said nearby schools with more students use less than 900 gallons per day.

Discovery Charter was supposed to open last August, but the State Board of Education (SBE) let school officials delay its first scheduled opening until the 2018-19 school year due to its legal issues.

Earlier this year, the SBE agreed to allow Discovery Charter to delay its opening until the 2019-20 school year while it works to resolve its legal issues.

Carl Forsyth, the school's founder, said in January that Discovery Charter had filled its sixth-grade enrollment and half of its seventh-grade enrollment.

Discovery Charter has been much-discussed among Durham Public Schools leaders. Citing budgetary constraints, they postponed the opening of DPS’ own STEAM-themed school, Eagle Academy, which was supposed to open on N.C. Central University campus last fall.

Eagle Academy was a pet project of former Superintendent Bert L’Homme.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645
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