School board drops Seawell plan

Staff WriterJune 8, 2007 

— A $28 million price tag for a new building and learning initiative at Seawell Elementary proved too steep for the school board Thursday.

After several board members expressed their regrets, the board voted unanimously to shelve a collaboration with the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC at Seawell. The proposal included a program for 3- and 4-year-olds following the Institute's First School model of integrating the teaching of pre-kindergarten with lower elementary school grades.

It also included a new building on neighboring Carolina North property that would have increased the school's overall capacity by 214 students. The university would have contributed $7 million to the project.

If the board had approved the plan, it would have spent about as much money on the new building as it would spend for a typical elementary school for 585 students. And it would have had to move up the timetable for the next elementary school from 2017 to 2012 to accommodate additional growth in the district.

School board members said they couldn't realistically see the Orange County Board of Commissioners funding two new elementary schools in that amount of time.

Board member Annetta Streater said she also was concerned that it would cost so much and not be available to kids across the district as some other programs are.

"It would be only serving those children who live in that residential area," Streater said.

Several board members said they hope to continue collaborating with the Institute.

The school board already has approved a First School program at Carrboro Elementary for the 2008-09 school year.

Staff writer Cheryl Johnston Sadgrove can be reached at 919-932-2005 or cheryl.sadgrove@newsobserver.com.

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