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Big CMS bond, big changes. What’s planned for your school?

School construction 2020.jpeg
Ann Doss Helms
/
WFAE
A CMS school construction site in 2020.

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools plan unveiled this week would bring changes in facilities, boundaries, magnet programs and/or grade levels to almost half the district’s 180 schools.

The changes hinge on a proposal to ask voters to approve almost $2.9 billion in school bonds this November. That’s more than triple the record-setting $922 million that Mecklenburg County voters approved in 2017.

As enrollment growth slows, this bond package shifts its new construction to replacing existing schools. It includes three completely new middle schools, one high school and one regional athletic facility. Twenty-five new schools would be built on or near the grounds of existing schools to replace aging facilities.


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CMS officials say the ranking system puts top priority on eliminating conditions that impede learning and/or safety, such as replacing buildings that don’t have good indoor air quality or are hard to physically secure. The construction projects also lay groundwork for new magnet programs that improve access across the county and create a clear path from elementary to middle and high school.

“We have to have the facilities with the right capacity, in the right condition, in order to do the other things that we want to do, like offer better magnet programs in a wider geographic dispersal, adjusting boundaries to relieve overcapacity situations and get students out of portable (classrooms),” CMS construction consultant Dennis LaCaria said this week.

For instance, construction at University Park Creative Arts School, First Ward Creative Arts Academy and Northwest School of the Arts would allow the district to turn University Park into a countywide elementary arts magnet, with First Ward taking middle school arts students and Northwest focusing on grades 9-12.

In some cases, CMS is refining its approach to how students learn best. The district is abandoning the neighborhood K-8 schools that were created in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

“What we’re learning is that it is hard to provide a full middle school experience, academically and also in terms of extracurriculars and sports, for middle schools in a K-8 environment,” CMS planning director Claire Schuch said.

Schuch said CMS will keep the K-8 combination for magnet schools, where attendance is optional, but convert the remaining combined neighborhood schools to elementary or middle schools.

None of the proposals are locked in yet. CMS is holding a series of public engagement sessions through Feb. 8. Comments received there could be used to revise the plan before Interim Superintendent Crystal Hill presents it to the school board on Feb. 14, with a board vote on Feb. 28.

The school board then pitches its bond package to county commissioners, who determine the amount that will go on the ballot. And voters decide in November whether they’re willing to foot the bill. Unlike sales-tax referenda, bond votes don’t come with a specific tax impact attached. But taking on almost $3 billion in debt, even spread over several years, would likely require increases in the property tax.

The earliest any changes would take place is August 2024, officials say. The first new buildings could open a year later, with completion of the entire package taking up to 10 years.

Here’s a list of what’s in the current plan, with resources to provide feedback and get more details at the bottom.

New facilities

  • North middle school: Located on land CMS owns on Stumptown Road at Monteith Park in Huntersville.  $73 million.
  • Second Ward high school: On Metro School site with medical and technology theme. $148 million.
  • South middle school: On land CMS is working to purchase. $73 million.
  • Southwest middle school: Built on land the district has on Highway 160. $73 million. 
  • West regional athletic complex: Multi-sport facility not tied to one school, located at the former Freedom Driving Range site . $80 million.

Replacements and renovations

  • Albemarle Road Elementary: Building replaced on site. $62 million.
  • Albemarle Road Middle: Building replaced on site. $77 million.
  • Allenbrook Elementary: Replaced with new building at former Freedom Driving Range. $58 million.
  • Beverly Woods Elementary: Building replaced on site. $58 million.
  • Berryhill: Current building demolished. Replacement built on land owned by Parks and Recreation. $77 million.
  • Chantilly/Cotswold/Billingsville: Cotswold Elementary building replaced on site and Billingsville renovated as part of changes involving all three schools (see below). $58 million.
  • Cochrane Collegiate Academy: Building replaced on site. $76 million.
  • Coulwood STEM Academy: Building replaced on site. $75 million.
  • Cornelius Elementary: Building replaced on site. $58 million.
  • Crown Point Elementary: Building replaced on site. $57 million.
  • E.E. Waddell High: Addition and renovation. $16 million.
  • East Mecklenburg High: Final phases of renovation. $148 million.
  • Eastway Middle: Building replaced on site. $76 million.
  • Garinger High: Next phase of renovation. $42 million.
  • Harding University High: Final phases of renovation. $155 million.
  • Hidden Valley Elementary: Building replaced on site. $59 million.
  • Huntersville Elementary: Building replaced on site. $54 million.
  • Huntingtowne Farms Elementary: Building replaced on site. $59 million.
  • J.T. Williams: Renovation for program changes (see below). $15 million.
  • Kennedy Middle: Building replaced on site. $77 million.
  • Marie G. Davis: Renovation for program change (see below). $8 million.
  • Matthews Elementary: Building replaced on site. $63 million.
  • North Mecklenburg High: Replace older buildings and athletic facilities. $202 million.
  • Northwest/First Ward: Renovations to both schools to prepare for changes in grade levels (see below). $74 million.
  • Olde Providence Elementary: Building replaced on site. $58 million.
  • Park Road/Sedgefield/Dilworth: Renovations to allow relocation of programs (see below). $72 million.
  • Piney Grove Elementary: Building replaced on site. $62 million.
  • Rama Road Elementary: Building demolished. Students move to a new building on the McClintock Middle site. $58 million.
  • South Charlotte Middle: Building replaced on site. $76 million.
  • South Mecklenburg High: Replace older buildings and athletic facilities. $101 million.
  • Starmount Academy: Building replaced on site. $57 million.
  • Steele Creek Elementary: Building replaced on site. $59 million.
  • University Park Creative Arts: Replace building on site. $57 million.
  • Villa Heights: Building demolished and replaced at the Hawthorne campus. $60 million.
  • Wilson STEM Academy: Building replaced on site. $74 million.

Boundaries and magnets

  • Ashley Park PreK-8: Becomes an elementary school. Middle school students reassigned.
  • Allenbrook Elementary: IB magnet added, possible boundary change.
  • Bailey Road Middle School: Boundary changes when new north middle school opens.
  • Beverly Woods Elementary: Possible boundary change or addition of a magnet program. 
  • Billingsville Elementary: Currently paired with Cotswold. Billingsville will take Cotswold students while Cotswold is replaced. Then a renovated Billingsville will house the Montessori magnet program now located at Chantilly.
  • Bruns Avenue: Picks up neighborhood students from University Park.
  • Chantilly Montessori: Building demolished. Program moves to Billingsville Elementary.
  • Cochrane Collegiate Academy: Loses the iMeck high school program and becomes a middle school only.
  • Community House Middle: Boundaries change when new south middle school opens.
  • Cornelius Elementary: Boundary change.
  • Cotswold Elementary: Currently paired with Billingsville; all grades will be consolidated at the new Cotswold building.
  • Coulwood STEM Academy: Boundary change.
  • Croft Community School: Gets computer science program now located at Vaughan. Possible boundary change.
  • Crown Point Elementary: Possible boundary change.
  • David Cox Road Elementary: Possible boundary change.
  • Davidson K-8: Boundary changes when new north middle school opens.
  • Dilworth Elementary: Becomes a middle school gifted and talented magnet and picks up the Horizons program for highly gifted students, who will be as young as third grade.
  • Dorothy J. Vaughan Academy: Building at old Newell Elementary is demolished. Computer science program moves to Croft Community School.
  • Druid Hills: Becomes a K-8 STEAM magnet for the northern part of the county.
  • E.E. Waddell High: Magnet programs expanded.
  • Eastway Middle: Cambridge and exercise science programs added.
  • Elizabeth Traditional: Becomes a Cambridge magnet school.
  • First Ward: Shifts from an elementary arts magnet to a middle school arts magnet.
  • Garinger High: Picks up the iMeck program currently located at Cochrane. Programs expanded to include Spanish, Cambridge and more career-tech paths.
  • Governor’s Village: Grade levels shift from K-8 to preK-6, with grades 7-8 moving to Martin MIddle School.  Boundaries change and magnet seats expand.
  • Grand Oak Elementary: Possible boundary change.
  • Harding University High: Law, social justice and forensic pathology magnet programs added.
  • Hawthorne High: Health sciences program moves to new Second Ward high.
  • Hopewell High: Cambridge program becomes a magnet.
  • Huntersville Elementary: Add gifted and talented magnet program; possible boundary change.
  • Irwin Academic Center: Becomes an IB magnet.
  • J.M. Alexander Middle: Becomes a full IB middle school magnet when new north middle school opens.
  • J.T. Williams: Montessori program relocates; school houses alternative education programs.
  • J.V. Washam Elementary: Boundary change.
  • Jay M. Robinson Middle: Boundaries change when new south middle school opens.
  • Kennedy Middle: Boundary change and/or magnet seats expanded when replacement building opens; boundary change also expected when new southwest middle school is finished.
  • Marie G. Davis: Becomes the secondary Montessori school (grades 7-12).
  • Montclaire Elementary: Adds computer science magnet.
  • Myers Park Traditional: Becomes an IB magnet.
  • Northwest School of the Arts: Shifts from grades 6-12 to grades 9-12. Middle school students move to First Ward.
  • Oakdale Elementary: Boundary change.
  • Olde Providence Elementary: IB middle school magnet added to expanded building.
  • Palisades Park Elementary: Boundary change.
  • Park Road Montessori: Magnet program moved to renovated Sedgefield Elementary. New building on the Park Road site houses the current Dilworth/Sedgefield schools. 
  • Parkside Elementary: Adds IB magnet.
  • Paw Creek Elementary: Boundary change.
  • Phillip O. Berry Academy: Expanded focus on construction, automotive, 3D printing/design and IT programs.
  • Polo Ridge Elementary: Boundary change to take in Rea Farms attendance zone as soon as 2024.
  • Rea Farms STEAM: Becomes a full K-8 magnet. Attendance zone reassigned to Polo Ridge as early as 2024, eventually moving to the new south middle school.
  • Renaissance West STEAM: Becomes a middle school. Elementary students reassigned.
  • River Gate Elementary: Possible boundary change.
  • Sedgefield Elementary: Becomes a Montessori magnet.
  • Sedgefield Middle: Adds IB magnet.
  • Smithfield Elementary: Adds IB magnet.
  • South Mecklenburg High: IB magnet added and paired with world languages program.
  • Southwest Middle School: Boundary change when new southwest school is built.
  • Starmount Academy: Boundary and/or program changes when new building opens.
  • Statesville Road Elementary: Boundary change.
  • Steele Creek Elementary: STEM magnet added.
  • Thomasboro PreK-8: Becomes an elementary school. Middle school students reassigned.
  • University Park Creative Arts: Becomes a full K-5 arts magnet. Neighborhood students reassigned to Bruns Avenue.
  • Villa Heights: IB magnet program added at new location.
  • Washam Elementary: Boundary change.
  • West Mecklenburg High: Cambridge program becomes a magnet.
  • Winget Park Elementary: STEM magnet moves to Steele Creek Elementary. Possible boundary change.
  • Winding Springs Elementary: Boundary change.

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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.