School, park coming to Steele Creek

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comJanuary 7, 2013 

— A long-awaited elementary school and park are coming to Steele Creek, with opening expected in summer 2014.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board last month approved a $12.93 million contract for a new elementary school along N.C. 49, across from McDowell Nature Preserve. A neighborhood park also will be built, and land is set aside for a future high school.

The new school will have 39 classrooms and should open in August 2014. It’s expected to relieve crowding at nearby Lake Wylie and Winget Park elementaries.

The school was approved in 2007, but the required bonds weren’t sold as was the case with several other county projects. Joyce Waddell, who represents Dist. 3 on the school board, said there’s been discussion about schools with high enrollment including one at 141 percent of capacity.

“We have a lot of other schools, K-8, that are overcrowded and we also need to do something about it,” she said before the unanimous approval of the Steele Creek contract.

Richard McElrath represents the Steele Creek area, Dist. 2. He told board members he receives emails and concerns not only about crowding at the elementary level, but other schools.

“We’re building elementary schools, and those kids are going to finally go to high school, and a lot of folks out there don’t think they have the capacity in the high schools to handle the flow of students,” McElrath said.

Guy Chamberlain, associate superintendent for auxiliary services, said there’s currently not a “significant overcrowding problem” at Olympic High School, but the school will be looked at in the upcoming needs assessment. Population growth, he said, is what spurred the original elementary school plan that put land aside for a high school.

“It was due to the rapid growth in that area,” Chamberlain said. “At the same time, we also built a high school site, which is ready to be built upon, so that we would have capacity for kids as they move forward.”

The “land banked” property for a future high school is the “lowest priority of currently planned future high schools” within the system, according to the district.

Part of the approved elementary school contract is for a neighborhood park, though that cost will be reimbursed by county parks and recreation. A 2008 county bond referendum included $250 million for parks and recreation. Just more than $311,000 was for Palisades Neighborhood Park, the planned joint venture with the school district.

Included in that plan, which was brought to the Steele Creek community in a public meeting following the bond, were playground and pavilion facilities, and two walking trail loops to be managed both by the schools and parks and recreation. An update on current planning from parks and recreation wasn’t available.

Also part of the 2008 park bond were $2.7 million for the final phase of Thomas McAllister Winget Regional Park, $1.69 million for a recreation center at Berewick Elementary School and $1.17 million for an extension of Walker Branch Greenway at RiverGate by almost a mile to Smith Road.

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