When we published our article last week about the Lincoln County Board of Education holding a public hearing on Tuesday April 5th regarding proposed school boundary line changes for Norris Childers Elementary School, it brought on multiple comments (mostly negative) on Facebook.
The hearing will be in the gymnasium at Norris Childers School at 6 PM that evening. Prior to the hearing, those who wish will have the opportunity to sign up to speak from 5:15 until 6 PM.
Some of the Facebook comments expressed the opinion that the proposed attendance line changes were due to the approval by the Lincolnton City Council of a new housing development near the intersection of Startown Road and Clarks Creek Road. That development, approved in two phases--one in October and the other this month, will produce 330 new homes when completed.
The news release from Lincoln County Schools indicated that
the recommended changes are due to the projected population growth on the Startown Road corridor. We spoke with Lincoln County Schools Chief Operating Officer Eric Eaker this week and he told us the single development near the Startown and Clarks Creek intersection is not by itself the reason for the needed change.
"There is a lot of building going on in that area," he told us. "There are 59 more homesites in Huntington Hills that will likely be built. There's another development at Carpenter Farm that will produce over 200 new homes. In all, we are told by Andrew Bryant, Lincoln County Development Director, that we can expect some 600 new homes in that area. That equates to 85 to 90 more students, possibly more."
Eaker said Norris Childers School is currently at about 88% capacity. Students in three areas will--if the School Board approves the plan--be switched from Norris Childers to North Brook, Union, or Love Memorial schools. Union is currently at about 67% capacity; Love Memorial at 68%; and North Brook at 76%.
Some of those who commented on Facebook were concerned that students would be separated from friends. "All of these students--in the Norris Childers district as well as the other three sections that may be reassigned to North Brook, Union or Love Memorial, will still be in the West Lincoln Middle School and West Lincoln High School districts; this will only affect the elementary school grades."
Eaker said 100 new homes generally produce about 32 new students. "We need to keep our class sizes to about 22 students," he said. "Some special needs classes need to have less than that."
The problem isn't new. Rapid development in eastern Lincoln County means that a new school will likely have to be built there in the near future. Population shifts.
Lincoln County's population grew by over 11% between 2010 and 2020 according to the US Census; while that was a bigger percentage growth than Catawba or Cleveland, Lincoln has grown much more rapidly since 2020. 51 of North Carolina's 100 counties actually saw a decline in population from 2010 to 2020.
In Lincoln County, Catawba Springs township grew by 33%; Ironton township grew by 6.5%; Lincolnton township lost 0.5% of its population; Howards Creek township grew by 1%; and North Brook township lost 3.7%.
Eaker said letters had been sent to parents of students at North Childers Elementary whose children will be in one of the three areas that are proposed to be reassigned to the other three schools. "We want everyone to be aware of the reason for the changes and we invite them to speak at the public hearing."
That hearing will be Tuesday April 5th at 6 PM at the Norris Childers Elementary Gymnasium, 2595 Rock Dam Road, Lincolnton. "If the board approves the plan, it will take effect for the 2022-2023 school year.
"Those who want to speak should sign up from 5:15 - 6:00 prior to the public hearing."