Nothing helps grow the local economy more than a great school system.
You can have acres of available land and millions of commercial square footage for sale or lease. You can have a high speed rail hub built next door to an international airport, adjacent to three major interstates and across the street from a major port.
Jeff Bezos can build a massive distribution center on top of a huge Apple iPhone factory with fancy underground tunnels designed by Elon Musk.
But without great schools... you're sunk.
Schools are the not-so-secret superpower of thriving local economies.
Communities anchored by great schools keep growing. Growing communities attract more families who put down roots and eventually become founders, employees, customers and advocates of local businesses.
Kids who attend great schools acquire the education, skills and talents that growing local companies want and need. Those new graduates get jobs, start families and help strengthen the roots of a local community. Schools keep the cycle of progress in motion.
Every great success story starts with education.
That's why, for economic development, there is no more important partner in the quest to improve quality of life.
The challenge facing schools in Currituck County is similar to the challenge facing the county as a whole: How to grow without changing.
How does Superintendent Dr. Matthew Lutz describe Currituck County Schools today?
"We're big enough to be able to provide a pretty robust education," he said, "but we're also small enough to be very personal at the same time."
Maintaining that balance is a challenge that Dr. Lutz has embraced. He brings 25 years of experience in public education, including more than 17 years in administrative roles. He spent time in the classroom as a high school history teacher and worked with student athletes as a basketball coach.
Experience on the court has served him well, since stepping into the role of superintendent in June 2020, Dr. Lutz hasn't stopped moving.
One of the reasons is that people haven't stopped moving to Currituck County.
Currituck County is one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina. Over the last 10 years, the population has grown from 24,000 to 28,000. By 2035, estimates put that number as high as 36,000.
More rooftops will mean more families. More families will mean more students. And the promise of more students has set Currituck County on a race to get ready.
Residential development, especially in Moyock, has boomed in recent years. Currently, there are more than 1,300 proposed residential lots in Moyock, with another 3,000 single-family and multi-family units planned for the Currituck Station project.
Dr. Lutz has worked closely with county officials on a long-term plan to expand capacity at local elementary and middle schools, as well as building a new elementary school on Tulls Creek Road in Moyock in the coming years.
"We have incredible growth opportunities here in the county," Lutz said. "One of our top priorities is to be prepared for the amount of students we have enrolling at the northern end of the county in particular."
Part of the building boom in Moyock has come from its popularity as a bedroom community for people who work over the state line in southeastern Virginia. Residents relocate from Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk and for less density, lower taxes and a more laid-back style of life in Currituck County.
"There's a reason people move here," he said. "There's a reason we have growth and big part of that is our schools."
Currently, there are over 4,200 students enrolled in the ten elementary, middle and high schools in Currituck County. All schools, with the exception of Knotts Island Elementary, are located on the mainland. There are no schools in Corolla and the Currituck Outer Banks.
As the county grows, Dr. Lutz is committed to helping the schools grow along with it.
"We want to still provide that small town, small community feel with real resources to allow kids to access a very high quality education," he said. "I believe there's a genuine want to be great here. People are excited when they hear us talk about our plans and our vision for the future.'"
If you're looking for more information about Currituck County schools, you can visit the school system's home page.
We've also compiled a list of the 10 schools below with basic information, interactive maps and links to official school social media accounts.
"Home of the Eagles"
Grades: Pre-K through 5th grade
Principal: Karrie Chappell
Address: 504 Shortcut Road Barco, NC 27917
Phone: (252) 453-0010
"Home of the Mallards"
Grades: K-5th (and also houses one of two Pre-K classrooms for the district)
Principal: Mike Greco
Address: 261 Poplar Branch Road Poplar Branch, NC 27965
Phone: (252) 453-2700
"Home of the Jaguars"
Principal: Julianne Iorio
Address: 110 Jarvisburg Road Jarvisburg, NC 27947
Phone: (252) 491-2050
"Home of the Woodducks"
Grades: Kindergarten through 5th
Principal: Kevin D. Goins M. Ed. L
Address: 413 Woodleigh Road PO BOX 40 Knotts Island, NC 27950
Phone: (252) 722-0770
"Home of the Panthers"
Principal: Brandi J. Kelly
Address: 255 Shingle Landing Rd. Moyock, NC 27958
"Home of the Mustangs"
Principal: Greta Nelson
Address: 370 Shawboro Road Shawboro, NC 27973
Phone: (252) 232-2237
"Home of the Raiders"
Grades: 6th - 8th
Principal: Mr. John Parkman
Address: 4203 Caratoke Highway Barco, NC 27917
Phone: (252) 453-2171
"Home of the Bulldogs"
Principal: Dr. Anne Radke
Address: 216 Survey Road Moyock, NC 27958
Phone: (252) 435-2566
"Home of the Knights"
Principal: Dr. Justin Durham
Address: 4203 Caratoke Hwy Barco, NC 27917
Phone: (252) 453-0014
FYI: In spring of 2020, CCHS was authorized by the College Board as one of only 1,800 schools worldwide to confer the prestigious Advanced Placement Capstone diploma, recognized by colleges and universities as among the most rigorous in the nation.
"Home of the Spartans"
Principal: Denise Fallon
Address: 2966 Caratoke Highway Currituck, NC 27929
Phone: (252) 232-3107
FYI: The J.P. Knapp Early College High School is a collaborator with the College of the Albemarle and other community colleges around the state. The early college provides a rigorous, relevant, responsive environment blended with a unique learning environment. J.P. Knapp E.C.H.S. provides students with an opportunity to earn both a North Carolina high school diploma and transferable college credits. Students may complete their early college high school experience within four to five years.