[UPDATE, 4/4/12: This high school is now officially called New Hampstead High School, after the name of the New Hampstead development that has been almost completely stalled since the housing bust.]
The Savannah-Chatham County public school system is moving ahead with spending over $30 million on a new West Side high school. Admittedly, however, that’s not the full price tag. The proposed new ESPLOST which voters will face in November would set aside money for additional classroom space and presumably for other critical infrastructure.
I’ve complained in my column off and on for a couple of years now about the remote site for the school, which is going to be massively problematic for actual, flesh-and-blood West Chatham residents and which is going to incur nightmarish transportation costs. We’re going to be looking at years — conceivably a generation or even more — before there’s substantial new residential construction near a site so remote. International Paper has or had dreams of 10,000 new residential units out there, but those dreams for “New Hampstead” look as uncertain right now as the plans for Savannah River Landing.
In this first map, you might not recognize anything. The new high school will be off Little Neck Road between John Carter Road and Ogeechee Road.
Here’s the same size map (all these are from Google Earth, btw) shifted a little bit northeastward. Now you can see some clear landmarks. There’s I-16, and there’s the Bloomingdale Road exit (155), which will be the route that most students will have to take. The site is about three miles from that interstate exit. To the right you can see clusters of homes along Pooler Parkway and on Quacco Road to the south of I-16 and portions of Pooler north of I-16 — all of those are off exit 153. But there is no direct route to get from any of those neighborhoods without hopping on the highway.
Well surely the site is in closer proximity to students to the south and east? No. There is no way to get from Quacco Road to the site except via Ogeechee and Little Neck. [Ogeechee is not even visible on the map because it’s so far away.]
What about further south and off to the west? Fort Argyle (the extension of 204 on the west side of I-95) is lightly populated and quickly approaches the county line.
There is obviously a major population cluster in Pooler. That’s where this school should be. I’m tempted to say that we’re encouraging residential sprawl by siting this high school in this location, but I’m not so sure. While we’re certainly setting up both private and public dollars to be wasted on gasoline — and think of the wasted hours! — I sort of doubt that families would move to such a remote neighborhood just to be near a high school.