Live, Work, and Play all within your neighborhood…sounds idealistic, right? Wrong! This is the vision of Chatham Park, a 21st century model of a planned community. Chatham Park will be built on 7,100 acres and will take 30-40 years until it is fully developed. It will be comprised of approximately 22,000 residences in 4-5 villages and 22 million square feet of office, retail, research, education, and community space. It is projected to bring 100,000 jobs and $150+ billion in direct economic activity to our community. The first homes are projected to be sold in Spring of 2019.
How will this affect our schools? With the continued growth and development already in this area, the Operations Research and Education Laboratory (OREd) has already reported in a 2016-2017 study that both Northwood High School and Perry Harrison Elementary were at 100%+ brick and mortar capacity. Chatham County Schools (CCS) are already addressing the current situation with a new, state-of-the-art elementary and high schools, Chatham Grove and Seaforth High, respectively. With the addition of these schools, which are projected to open in 2020 and 2021, they will help with the current student population boom and the influx of students that will come from the first home building phase of Chatham Park.
Chatham Park will pay a $3,500 per house fee to Chatham County Schools for students to attend a current CCS until a public school is built within its community. This could be utilized in numerous ways, for example, to help maintain the bus fleet, to help aid in the hiring of additional teachers and staff, and/or building maintenance. CCS will decide where the money will be best utilized.
Once fully developed, it is projected that an additional 7 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 2 high schools will be built to accommodate the students of Chatham Park. These projections were made after studying NC, Wake and Chatham county averages. The schools will be comprised of public, private, and charter schools. The first school is scheduled to open in 2020. Thales Academy, a private K -12 school, is privately funded and will be built before the student growth is present. In contrast, public schools in North Carolina are built when the surrounding schools are at or almost at capacity. Due to the way public school capital outlays are funded in NC, the private school can be proactive, and the public schools have to react to school capacity. Chatham Park is working closely with the Chatham County School Board to develop new public schools as the community grows. The schools will be open to all Chatham County residents.
Chatham Park is expected to have 30% of its project committed to open, green space. This will allow the students and parents to utilize sidewalks, trails, and/or bike paths to and from school. The plan is to build schools near parks. Therefore, the parks ball fields and playgrounds can have dual usage.
If a commitment is made by the Chatham County School Board to build a public school within a specified timeframe, Chatham Park will give them the school sites with water and sewer, free of charge. This is for any school being built within their community. Thales Academy was granted 103 acres to build on.
Chatham County schools are recognized by the Niche.com as being 19/116 best school districts in North Carolina. We are all vested in maintaining this level and greater for the students, our future leaders.