Orange County

Council gets first crack at reviewing Chapel Hill High renovation

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district plans to demolish two buildings at Chapel Hill High School and replace them with two new, two-story buildings as part of a $62 million renovation project. A formal application for the project has not been submitted to the town of Chapel Hill yet.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district plans to demolish two buildings at Chapel Hill High School and replace them with two new, two-story buildings as part of a $62 million renovation project. A formal application for the project has not been submitted to the town of Chapel Hill yet. Contributed

A planned renovation and expansion of Chapel Hill High School should be built to serve more students, Town Council members said during Monday’s review of a preliminary concept plan.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools officials want to start construction at 1709 High School Road in the summer of 2018, with an opening scheduled for 2020.

A formal application for the $52 million project has not been submitted. A concept review is a chance for the council to ask questions and provide feedback to the developer.

A voter-approved county bond will pay for the work, which includes the demolition of two buildings and the construction of two new, two-story buildings.

The 163,000-square-foot upgrade will include new classrooms, science labs, a media center and administrative offices. It also includes renovations to the existing auditorium and gym.

The project could address stormwater issues with rain gardens in a central courtyard and pervious pavement in the parking lots to lessen runoff. The project also will work with the uneven terrain, project officials said.

A second driveway for dropping off students would be added from the rear of the campus to Seawell School Road, just north of Smith Middle School. Students will continue to use the driveway off High School Road.

It’s not clear yet what will happen with 14 mobile units serving the high school, said Ashley Dennis, with Mosley Architects. The main building would continue to serve students until its replacement is ready.

The project is expected to increase the high school’s capacity from 1,500 to up to 1,764 students. It will leave plenty of room for future expansion, senior town planner Kay Pearlstein said.

It’s disappointing not to see a significant increase in the high school’s capacity, Council member Maria Palmer said. The district has a growing number of homeschooled and private-school students who could benefit from shared space, she said, as well as a number of community groups.

“This is a lot of money, of our tax dollars, going into building. We have a desperate need for collaborative space for Durham Tech, for ESL classes, for adult learning,” Palmer said.

“We collaborated at Smith Middle School to build a shared classroom with UNC. I know it’s a lot of work, but we have a School of Education here. Where is the partnering so that we can train teachers, so that we can do adult education?” she asked.

Monday’s hearing also marked the first phase of changes to how the town deals with concept plans for potential projects. Town staff has developed seven basic questions that developers will be asked to answer before meeting with the council.

The second set of changes will be introduced at the council’s May public hearing, including a revised application and requirements, Pearlstein said.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

Other business

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools plans for a new maintenance building at 1708 High School Road will return to the Town Council in May for a possible vote.

The council reviewed the district’s application to rezone 5.5 acres of land for a proposed 23,000-square-foot storage and maintenance building and 68 parking spaces. The site is next to the district’s 9-acre transit facility and across the road from Chapel Hill High School.

The building’s primary use will be storing food for the district’s nutrition program and other education-related materials and supplies.

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