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Durham (North Carolina) board approves design for new School of the Arts campus

Dec. 19, 2023
Building a new school will cost an estimated $241 million; renovating the existing campus would take 5 years longer and cost $372 million.

The Durham (North Carolina) school board has approved a design for a new, $241 million campus for Durham School of the Arts.

The Raleigh News & Observer reports that renovating the existing downtown campus would cost far more than new construction on a site 3.5 miles away.

The new school is scheduled to open in fall 2026.

The School of the Arts opened in 1995 in one of the oldest school buildings in Durham. The middle/high school serves about 1,800 students, who can select concentrations like film, visual arts, piano, dance and creative writing.

The school's existing 17-acre campus has nowhere to grow. A consultant told the school board two years ago that the campus was unsafe, had outdated classrooms and caused traffic jams at pickup and drop-off times.

Over a decade ago, the Durham district paid $4.1 million for what is to be the school's new site--a 57-acre property about 3.5 miles away on the north side of Interstate 85.

Several parents asked the board to reconsider moving the school. But Fred Davis, who directs building services for district, said renovating would cost $372 million and take until 2031.

The new building is designed around an interior courtyard with a sunken amphitheater.

A third of the classrooms will be dedicated to arts programming: a dozen music rooms, a 150-seat theater, 10 art studios, a wood shop and two dance studios.

The school will have a capacity of 2,295 students, compared with 1,800 served at the existing campus.

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