Local News

Location For Alternative School Draws Debate In Hillsborough

Posted January 5, 2004 8:22 a.m. EST

— "Not in my back yard" is a common cry when people debate locations for landfills or highways. But an educational facility is causing a similar refrain in Orange County, where a town and a school system disagree about the location of an alternative school.

Many people come to historic Hillsborough to see the old churches and homes and the quaint downtown.

"You can walk to the hardware store, coffee shop, several restaurants," said town board member Eric Hallman.

The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough works to preserve that image. That is why members and town officials stopped the Orange County School Board from putting a temporary trailer in the historic district for an alternative school.

The modular building for the alternative students would have sat behind the Board of Education building. People would not have been able to see the school from the road.

But the town was worried about crime because the school would serve a variety of non-traditional students, including those on long-term suspension.

"There was some concern that these kids may be uncontrollable," Hallman said.

School Board Vice Chairwoman Brenda Stephens is not giving up. She plans to suggest a different site to the board Monday night.

"This situation is not a period," Stephens said. "It's just a comma.

"They're our children, and they deserve to be served. That's our job, and that's what we're going to do."

The site now being considered by the school board is a mobile unit still in the historic district but farther away from the center of town. The library uses the trailer, but will move out later this month.

"The modular's already set up," Stephens said. "The hookups are in place."

Said Hallman: "While it's still in the historic district, it has access to the county library that's there, the county recreation facilities."

It's a proposal both sides hope will give non-traditional students an education and have visitors leaving historic Hillsborough wanting to come back.

If the school board approves the temporary trailer, the alternative school could open later this month. The school board is looking for money for a permanent site.