© 2023 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

CMS Loses Enrollment, But Hispanic Enrollment Grows To New Milestone

Myers Park High has 3,563 students this year, making it once again the district's largest school.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has seen its first significant enrollment drop, according to a report posted Monday. And the district’s Hispanic enrollment hit a milestone as well. 

CMS has 146,687 students this year, down by 465 from last year. That’s a decline of less than half a percent, but it’s the first significant slump since enrollment began leveling off two years ago. (Last year CMS initially reported a slight gain, then revised later to say it was down by seven students.)

That continues a trend seen across North Carolina: After years of rapid growth, many school districts are shrinking as charter school enrollment grows. Until the Great Recession, CMS was growing by thousands of students each year. Growth slowed after that, while the state allowed more charter schools to open.

Across America, educators and demographics experts are talking about a "baby bust" leading to public school shrinkage.

The CMS drop would have been much steeper if not for Hispanic students. The district added almost 2,400 Hispanic students this year, almost offsetting declines in black and white enrollment.

And for the first time, Hispanic enrollment has virtually caught up to white enrollment. Each group accounts for just under 27% of the student body.

This year CMS tallied 39,146 Hispanic students and 39,410 white students — a decline of about 1,200 from the previous year.

Black enrollment dropped by almost 2,400, to about 53,000. That's 36% of total enrollment.

A decade ago CMS had roughly 60,000 black students, 45,000 white students and 21,000 Hispanic students.

Asian enrollment grew slightly, to just over 10,000 students or 7% of CMS.

The numbers come from tallies taken on the 20th day of school, which is considered the official snapshot of ever-shifting enrollment.

The largest schools in CMS are Myers Park High with 3,563 students; Ardrey Kell High with 3,352 and South Meck with 3,258.

Those will likely be the biggest schools in the state — they've held that position for several years — but North Carolina hasn't yet compiled the 20th-day reports from 115 districts and charter schools. A tally of Mecklenburg County charter school enrollment isn't yet available either.

Click here for the CMS enrollment and diversity reports.

Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.