Real Estate - Residential

Some Buyers, Sellers Await School Maps

By Cece Nunn, posted Mar 9, 2018
New Hanover County Schools Superintendent Tim Markley points out the differences between a current school district map and an option that would have moved some high schoolers to alleviate overcrowded facilities. (photo by Cece Nunn)

The New Hanover County Board of Education was expected to make a decision this month on a map that would have changed which high school some students attended. But the board delayed that decision until next year, leaving some potential homebuyers sitting on the fence.

It’s not an unusual situation for a community to have. Past surveys, including a 2013 study by, have found that the vast majority of potential homebuyers find school boundaries important in their search.

Uncertainty about those districts could affect whether parents buy or sell their homes at all at a given time. Both high school and middle school redistricting in New Hanover County is expected to be considered in 2019, while elementary school changes could take place in 2020, according to the current timeline.

“We already have an inventory shortage. There’s many more buyers on the market right now than there are sellers at the time. And so when you have a situation where people are trying to be in certain school districts, they’re either nervous to sell because they don’t know where they need to purchase their next home or they’re scared they’ll end up moving out of the school district that they’re in,” said David Williams, a Realtor with Wilmington-based Century 21 Sweyer & Associates. “And that just causes more of a problem because then you don’t have more homes being listed and on the market, and it causes a lot of concern for buyers because they thought they knew where they wanted to live, and with this up in the air they don’t know where to purchase.”

Williams said he doesn’t think the market would come to a standstill because of the delay in redrawing the high school maps for New Hanover County Schools.

But, “it would be easy for it to calm the market a bit and kind of stall sales somewhat.”

And the delay comes on the cusp of the spring home listing season.

“It’s nice weather, and everybody’s getting their houses fixed up, and everything looks better with the green grass and the flowers,” said Williams, explaining the usual uptick in listings this time of year. “There has to be a certain handful of those sellers who are going to wait this out and kind of see where the [school] lines land.”

School officials use a software program called Davis Demographics and a set of guiding principles set by the school board when redrawing maps. If new maps are adopted by the board next year, it will be the first time in about nine years that the New Hanover County Schools has gone through the redistricting process.

“Philosophically, we don’t want to be a county that redistricts every year. High-growth counties like Wake [County] are usually moving some students on a regular basis. They’re building schools so fast that there are some growth issues there,” New Hanover County Schools Superintendent Tim Markley said. “This county has historically done it and then leave[s] it alone until it really needs to be done again. With the growth in the county that’s expected, that’s why we’re looking at this. Plus we’re opening a brand new elementary school [Porters Neck Elementary], and that’s forced us to look at redistricting.”

The students who would have gone to Blair Elementary School are occupying the new Porters Neck Elementary School during this school year, and Wrightsville Beach Elementary School students will then attend the new Blair Elementary School building currently under construction off Market Street while Wrightsville Beach Elementary is renovated.

The Wrightsville Beach Elementary improvements represent the last of the school bond projects that voters approved in 2014 totaling $160 million.

Laney High School is the most overcrowded high school in the district, with 395 students over its capacity, followed by Ashley High School at 195 students too many.

The situation is not as simple as building a new high school. “Building schools is, from conception to end, a timely process, a long process because as a school district, we don’t have direct taxing authority. So we have to go to the [New Hanover Board of] County Commissioners, ask for a bond and then get it on the ballot,” Markley said.

That’s just the beginning of the process, and it can take six months. Then the time it takes to build an elementary school is a year to a year and- a-half.

“So you’re two years from when you say, ‘I need a school’ to at the earliest actually seeing the school. In reality, it’s probably going to be three or four years from that point,” Markley said.

High schools require larger footprints, which in turn require more construction time – and more money.

While current estimates put the total cost of a new elementary school at $20 million to $25 million, a middle school is $45 million and a high school is $90 million, the superintendent said.

“The land requirements for a traditional comprehensive high school is 60 acres minimum,” Markley said.

At RiverLights, a master planned community off River Road that could have more than 2,200 homes at full build-out, 15 acres have been set aside for a potential school in the future, but that would only be enough to accommodate an elementary school, he said.

Instead of building a high school any time soon, plans include expanding some of the school system’s choice options – Isaac Bear Early College High School at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington Early College High School at Cape Fear Community College’s North Campus and SEATECH (Southeast Area Technical High School), which is also at CFCC’s North Campus on Blue Clay Road.

Ico insights


Russell 102218124439

The Battle Over Biotechnology Inventions Part III

Russell Nugent - The Humphries Law Firm
Img 1576c1

Is Passive Investing Wise?

Eddie Nowell - South Atlantic Capital Management Group
Infinity 891835159

What is EMV and Am I Liable?

Kyle Thorpe - Infinity Payment Systems

Trending News

Coming Soon To Carolina Beach: Condos, Fork N Cork, Publix

Cece Nunn - Dec 17, 2018

Business Park Proposed For Hampstead Area

Christina Haley O'Neal - Dec 17, 2018

In The Current Issue

Top Stories No. 2: Realtors: Housing Market Still Strong

2018 Year in Review: Out of the gate in 2018, home sale statistics in the Wilmington area – including New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender coun...

Top Stories No. 9: GE Power Split Includes GE Hitachi

2018 Year in Review: Wilmington-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy is among a group of General Electric Corp.’s Power divisions that were part...

Top Stories No. 10: Changes In Local Retail Landscape

2018 Year in Review: Good times and bad times hit Wilmington’s retail scene this year....

Book On Business

The 2018 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!



Health Care Heroes 2018
2018 WilmingtonBiz Expo - Keynote Lunch with Eric Dinenberg, Rouse Properties