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75 CMS Schools Will See Change In Ann Clark’s Boundary Plan

John D. Simmons
Charlotte Observer
The popular Morehead STEM Academy, a K-8 magnet school, will see major changes under Superintendent Ann Clark’s proposal.";

Superintendent Ann Clark proposed changes Tuesday at 75 of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s 170 schools, including new measures such as creating paired elementary schools to increase diversity, breaking up a popular STEM magnet and adding neighborhood zones to what have been full magnet schools.

The number of students affected remained unclear Tuesday night, but neighborhoods across the county will see their elementary, middle and/or high school assignments change if the school board approves Clark’s plan.

While two school board members had described the plan last week as “conservative,” Clark described it as “a significant body of work.”

“We are putting some different approaches before our community,” she said.

The student assignment review, which began in 2015, is designed to increase academic opportunities, deal with crowding and break up concentrations of disadvantage.

It remains unclear how many schools will continue to have extremely high concentrations of poverty, which is often coupled with racial isolation. Breaking up such concentrations has been a topic of fierce debate, with some believing it’s essential to provide educational equity and others fearing it could disrupt schools and erode support for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Highlights of the plan, which is also designed to address crowding, keep students close to home and promote continuity between grade levels, include:

▪ Introducing three sets of paired elementaries – Nathaniel Alexander and Morehead, Dilworth and Sedgefield, and Billingsville and Cotswold – which will improve diversity by having a bigger district where students attend one school for grades K-2 and move together to another for grades 3-5.

▪ Turning some full magnet schools, including Morehead STEM, Marie G. Davis IB and University Park and First Ward arts schools, into partial magnets by creating new neighborhood zones for them.

▪ Converting four combined elementary/middle schools – Morehead, Bruns, Westerly Hills and Reid Park – into elementary schools.

▪ Reopening Wilson Middle School, which closed in 2011, and turning Villa Heights, a former elementary school that currently houses an academy for overage high school students, back into a neighborhood elementary school.

▪ Taking magnet expansion beyond what was proposed last year, adding 4,270 magnet seats in 2018 and using new magnet programs to diversify high-poverty schools.

▪ Creating a zone for the K-8 school that will open at the Eastland Mall site in 2018. It will pull students who now go to four schools in east Charlotte, including the highly crowded Albemarle Road Elementary.

▪ Changing boundaries at 14 of 18 neighborhood high schools: Ardrey Kell, Butler, East Mecklenburg, Garinger, Harding, Hopewell, Hough, Independence, Mallard Creek, Myers Park, South Mecklenburg, Vance, West Charlotte and West Mecklenburg. Many of the changes involve small areas moving from one zone to another.

[CMS link: See the presentation on proposed boundary and grade-level changes]