CUMMING, Ga. — Residents opposed to construction of a new middle school on Hyde Road brought their concerns to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners Thursday saying the facility will compromise safety and complicate traffic.
The school system purchased the 45-acre site last December for $3.8 million.
Tim Amerson, director of facilities planning for Forsyth County Schools, spoke in favor of the school, saying that Middle School 11 is needed because the three nearby middle schools — Vickery Creek, Otwell and Liberty — are collectively 20 percent over capacity. The average growth of those schools per year is 3.2 percent, he said.
Middle School 11 will be built with 89 classrooms and the capacity for 1,500 students, Amerson said. The plan creates 3,000 feet of stacking space for vehicles in the carpool lane, he said.
Forsyth County residents, most of whom live along or just off of Hyde Road, asked during the public hearing for more sidewalks, an extended speed reduction zone and a more extensive traffic study.
Caroline Andrews, who is 16 years old and goes to West Forsyth High School, raised concerns about traffic under extreme circumstances along the narrow Hyde Road. The traffic survey did not account for the possibility of a snow day or even an especially rainy day when more parents would choose to carpool, she said.
Albert Childrey, who lives two houses from the proposed school property, said he wanted to preserve the decades-old horse farm and horse graves located on the site.
“I’m very concerned about traffic especially,” said Mark Redfern, who also lives off of Hyde Road. “Hyde Road is a narrow country road with a dangerous hill and a blind spot that offers limited visibility.”
The new school would bring an additional 2,430 daily trips along Hyde Road, according to the traffic study conducted by GCA Inc. The traffic study was performed Oct. 9, 2018, for 24 hours, and some residents asked why it didn’t cover a longer time period.
County Commissioner Molly Cooper asked County Director of Engineering John Cunard if he thought the traffic survey was sufficient. The traffic study was first given to his staff that day, he said, so he had not gotten a chance to review it in detail by the time of the board meeting.
Traffic surveys and other assessments to the site are typically studied during the procurement process when site plans are available, he said, but as of now the Board of Education is not at the phase where they have detailed site plans and drawings for the school.
Cooper suggested that another traffic study be conducted.
But Amerson said that this survey couldn’t be done at least until August when the school year starts again to get an accurate study.
The Board of Education does not need the Board of Commissioners’ approval to build the school, though, as some residents had hoped.
Redfern asked the board to keep from making a “wrong decision” in deciding to allow this middle school. But the middle school can be built without zoning approval from the board.
“There is no question that with respect to whether we have the ability under our zoning and land use code to say, ‘you can’t put a school here,’ we can’t say no,” Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard said.
The board has some say in safety issues related to the speed limits of the road and school zone, for example, but the public hearing was not to decide whether or not to allow the school to be built. Commissioner Todd Levent described the public hearing as mostly a courtesy from the Board of Education.
The school is expected to break ground by October and open by the 2021 school year, Amerson said.
Commissioners moved to revisit public discourse on the item in September, after the school board has a chance to conduct a new study, if needed.