County officials and homeowners in Albemarle County are buzzing about the possibility of a "high school of the future." The school board is set to approve its strategic plan next week - and along with it, funds to research and plan for a new high school.
The school board is currently looking ahead to 2020. Some Albemarle homeowners want to renovate existing high schools, but parents in the northern corridor say a new high school is just what the county needs.
Michelle Gregory's son Noah walked through the doors of Albemarle High School last year alongside almost 1,800 students.
"I just sort of found out last year how huge Albemarle is and I just think that's just so many kids and you really kind of lose that close-knit feeling," said Gregory.
The Albemarle County School Board is currently planning for how county schools will cope with expected growth in the northern corridor.
"Albemarle has been around for a long time and I know they have expanded it over and over again and, I mean it's so large that most of the kids don't even use their lockers because there's no time to run to their locker to run all the way at one end of the school and then be somewhere else," said Gregory.
The county's long-range planning advisory committee recommended additions to Western Albemarle and Monticello high schools, but county officials say a new high school addresses growth in the north more effectively.
"It all comes down to the experience for students, really providing them learning opportunities, expanding opportunities for them and the curriculum comes first and that's what our board recognizes," said Matt Haas, assistant superintendent for Albemarle schools.
Gregory's neighbor Charlie Jones has three children under the age of 10.
He says a new high school would shorten his family's commute - and free up the roads for others.
"Having a new high school out in this area would obviously lessen the commute time for the kids and for the parents for that school and activities - if we just renovate the existing schools, then we will still have that drive, we will still have that commute and that's a lot of time, it's a lot of gas, it's more pollution - all those things that we really don't want here in Charlottesville," said Jones.
Once the school board approves the strategic plan, research on the options will move forward. If, down the road, the board decided to build a new high school, construction could start by 2020.