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CMS officials say they need more time for Waddell High School magnet plans

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials pledged Tuesday that E.E. Waddell High School will re-open in a year as a full magnet high school. But they said they need more time to work out details.

Waddell opened in 2001 as a neighborhood high school in southwest Charlotte. When CMS closed schools during the Great Recession of 2008, it transitioned to a K-8 language immersion magnet school. Those students moved into a new building last year.

The 71-classroom building is slated to become a magnet high school starting in August 2023. A $5 million building renovation is nearly done.

"We've had discussions on that and made a commitment that that will be a full magnet high school in the ensuing '23-'24 school year," Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh said in a presentation to the school board.

School planning consultant Dennis LaCaria also assured the school board that that will happen, but said a clear vision hasn’t yet emerged for which programs should be there.

"We did not feel that we had gotten all of the feedback that we really needed in order to bring forward our best possible approach," he said.

Board member Lenora Shipp told him it’s important to keep talking with community members.

"We really want it to be attractive, inspiring, state of the art, right? To bring the students and the families to that school," she said.

LaCaria agrees and is hoping to start engaging the community as soon as next month.

"Absolutely," LaCaria responded. "And that is absolutely key, and we are looking to roll out our community engagement calendar right after we get into the school year and start the engagement work right after Labor Day."

Among the options that have been discussed, according to the board presentation, are aviation and logistics and career-tech programs focusing on construction-related trades. LaCaria said it makes sense to tie the decisions about Waddell High School into a bigger review of boundaries and magnet programs and to make sure it's synchronized with plans for a new high school between South Mecklenburg and Ardrey Kell, which is opening in 2024.

In the meantime, CMS will move its Performance Learning Center and virtual programs into the Waddell building this year.

The board unanimously approved boundaries for three new elementary schools opening in east and south Charlotte next year, as well as reopening Lincoln Heights Elementary School as a Montessori magnet school for grades pre-K to sixth.

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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.