UNION COUNTY, N.C. -- For years, people have been moving to Union County because of its low taxes and good schools.
But now, those schools appear to be shrinking. Research shows enrollment is expected to drop over the next decade.
The projection comes as Union County Public Schools continue a three-year discussion on redrawing district lines.
The school board hired a demographer to take a closer look at the changing population in Union County.
The results -- total enrollment for the district is expected to drop by 5,000 students over the next 10 years. Some parents are concerned about what that means for their wallets when it comes to school fees.
“I’m just kind of middle class, don’t make a lot of money," said one parent. “I have two kids but imagine if you have five or six.”
There are several reasons for the decline, including the opening of charter schools. Union County currently has three and more could be coming.
“Two more schools have applied for charter that I’m aware of,” said Pat Khale, President of the Union County Chamber of Commerce. “There is a little, but more flexibility as I understand it in the curriculum.”
The study also shows people aren’t getting building permits for homes at the rate they were around the early 2000s. The county’s growth director chalks that up to the housing bust.
“It had to do with the recession that happened back in 2008 that obviously stopped growth,” said Brian Matthews. Matthews is the Director of Growth Management for the county.
“We still have plenty of land and developments so we don’t want people to think there’s no growth here,” Matthews added.
Lastly, the demographer’s stats show people aren’t moving into Union County like they used to. While county leaders admit there’s been a slow down in newcomers, which they say it isn’t such a bad thing.
“When we experience so much growth like we did in the 90s, our schools were burdened with a great deal of growth in a very short period of time,” said Khale.
“It’s hard to keep pace with that," he said. "The schools have a hard time, the county with infrastructure has a hard time keeping pace, so it gives us a chance to catch our breath.”
The study also shows in the next decade, six schools would be “over utilized,” meaning the board might consider the amount of money and resources they give to certain schools.
Once again all of this research will be a determining factor on if Union County public school system will redraw district lines, the next meeting is August 9.
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