Duke property near the Durham Regional Hospital will soon be home to a new public high school.
In its meeting June 17, the Durham Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved the purchase of 58 acres of land from the University, largely to alleviate overcrowding in two Durham high schools.
The school district will pay Duke $4.1 million for a portion of the site, which will be home to a high school that can potentially open as early as 2012. The school, which will be located on the corner of Duke Homestead Rd. and Stadium Drive, will initially hold about 800 students, but will later be expanded to hold about 1,200 students, according to a DPS news release.
The new high school will help address overcrowding issues at DPS high schools, predominantly at Jordan and Riverside High Schools, which are located about 10.5 and 3 miles away from new site, respectively. Construction of the school will cost around $48 million, according to the news release.
Hugh Osteen, DPS assistant superintendent of operational services, said the site is not as centrally located between the schools as DPS had originally hoped, but added that sewage and water systems are close to the site and Stadium Drive was recently updated.
“For DPS, this property means a lot in that there are not that many parcels left in the region that we are looking at,” Osteen said. “We have been aware of this site for a while. It was not our first choice, you have to go through the process of elimination.”
The new school, however, will mean some changes for Duke. Phail Wynn, vice president for Durham and regional affairs, said School of Medicine research facilities are located on part of the property. Some of these facilities will be torn down and consolidated on the part of the property that Duke will retain, Wynn said.
“This particular site was easier for them to plan on, and it could be done without us having to sell the entire plot of land,” Wynn said, adding that much of the $4.1 million price tag will pay for the construction. “Some people may ask, ‘Why couldn’t Duke just donate the land?’ When the transaction was done, any necessary cost would be a part of that price.”
Wynn said the University indicated that the Homestead property was the only property it was willing to discuss with DPS in late 2007 and into 2008. DPS came under fire when it began looking into a Duke Forest site near Erwin and Cornwallis roads for the future school in 2009, but Wynn said Duke never approved or negotiated the sale of the plot.
Osteen said the school board will discuss redistricting about a year before the school is set to open. If necessary, the start date may be pushed back to 2013, he added.
Partnering with DPS is important for Duke, Wynn said. In a few years, Duke may involve high school students with some of its research facilities since they will be located on the same campus, he added.
“The University strongly supports public education and feels that through a strong partnership with the University we can enhance and improve the educational process in Durham,” he said. “We will be looking for opportunities that… can help enrich the curriculum of that high school.”
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