Specialty school gets new location

Bonds may allow permanent home

Staff WriterOctober 9, 2007 

— High schoolers in the City of Medicine Academy will move into a new building near Durham Regional Hospital next year, pending the signing of a lease this week.

The specialty high school for the health sciences is now located inside Southern High School.

County commissioners agreed Monday to initiate a three-year, $1 million lease of the former Verizon building at 4100 N. Roxboro Road, just north of Durham Regional Hospital. The 21,000-square-foot space would be a temporary location for the nearly 300 students in the academy.

School officials hope that a bond referendum Nov. 6 will secure an additional $7.1 million to build a permanent home for the school on county property on the Durham Regional campus, said Hugh Osteen, assistant superintendent of operations for Durham Public Schools.

Earlier this year, school officials revised their proposed $194.2 million bond package to carve out funding for a new building on the Durham Regional site. But even if the bond package is approved on Election Day, it could be three to four years before the building is complete, Osteen said.

Durham Public Schools have been looking for months for a temporary location for the school, which prepares students for careers in nursing and medicine, Osteen said. Students need to be closer to hospitals and other medical buildings to complete observations and apprenticeships with working professionals.

Durham County will contribute more than $1 million for the three-year lease, County Manager Mike Ruffin said. But Monday's vote was just an agreement to contribute the security deposit.

The Durham school district will pay for construction necessary to ready the space for students, Osteen said.

There will be room for as many as 300 students. If the bond package is approved in November, the school will admit as many as 400 students once the new building is ready.

Commissioner Becky Heron said commissioners were left out of talks to pursue the lease. There was no discussion of it at a recent work session, and the item was placed the commissioners' consent agenda Monday, which wouldn't allow discussion, Heron said.

Still, Heron said, the academy is deserving of its own location.

"This is a wonderful program," Heron said.

samiha.khanna@newsobserver.com or (919) 956-2468

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