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School boundaries unchanged after hundreds turn out for CMS meeting

Hundreds attend CMS Board meeting discussing zoning.

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools board has nixed an idea to have students from Cotswold Elementary feed into East Mecklenburg High School, not Myers Park. The idea was one of four options the board considered last night to ease overcrowding at Myers Park and add students to East Meck. East Meck will lose about 700 students once the new Mint Hill High School opens next year. The board also decided last night to keep controversial plans to deal with overcrowding at Eastover Elementary on the table. WFAE's Lisa Miller has more: It was easy to distinguish the 400 or so parents who attended last night's school board meeting. Many wore shirts that showed support for one boundary proposal or opposition to another. Linda Peak attended to show support for East Meck. Before the meeting got started, Peak was selling white T-shirts that read "East." "We're going to lose 700 kids beginning next year, which is a third of our population, which is a third of our teachers, a third of our resources and programs," she said. "So we're going to lose a lot of programs. So what we're hoping is we'll see some rezoning, some options that will give us some more population." Peak and other East Meck parents' say they hope more students will make it easier for the school to hold onto a wider variety of courses including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. The parents of Cotswold and Myers Park students had their own attire - white shirts with neon green stickers-and their own concerns. DC Lucchesi has three children at Cotswold Elementary. He says his objections aren't about his kids going to East Meck, but what the zoning change could undo at Cotswold. "Probably some people would not be okay with the decision to disrupt that chain. (They) would leave Cotswold and would disrupt the 10-year, 12 years worth of work that has gone on for folks to turn that into what should be a model, but has now turned into a target," Lucchesi says. About 400 people attended the school board meeting, even though there wasn't a chance for them to speak. It was easy to distinguish the crowd. Nearly everyone was wearing the colors or shirts in support of particular schools, or held signs. Trent Merchant was one of five board members that spoke up against changing the high schools' boundaries. "If we allow this to continue and we allow this to stay open as an option it's going to get nastier, we're going to raise expectations, we're going to raise anxiety levels and unless I'm totally wrong, and if I am I'm so sorry, I don't we're going to vote for it," Merchant said. Board members heard from CMS staff that said fewer students at East Meck wouldn't necessarily mean fewer course offerings. They also pointed to projections that showed moving 221 Cotswold students to East Meck would help decrease poverty levels at the high school. Board member Larry Gavreau said the board should only shift students for the purpose of easing overcrowding at Myers Park. "That should be the reason for this board. Not to mathematically and social engineer one school, right, or get some white students. I used to hate it when I'd hear that. Haven't heard that recently, but if that same culture is there, I mean, God help us if we're still trying to do that." Board members Joe White, Kaye McGarry, Ken Gjertsen, and Kimberly Mitchell-Walker also indicated they would vote against the option to re-draw Cotswold's boundary. CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman said he'd remove the Cotswold boundary change from the list of options. But he left the door open for other boundary proposals. At this point, other options on the table include keeping the school boundaries the same, but shifting some students from Myers Park's I-B program to East Meck's. But many of the people who showed up last night had their eyes on a different matter. The district has proposed a few options to deal with overcrowding at Eastover Elementary. One of them would have Myers Park Traditional, a nearby magnet school, swap buildings with Eastover. Dozens of Myers Park Traditional parents came to protest that option. Several Eastover parents said they supported that plan but were against another option to re-draw boundaries to move 110 Eastover students to First Ward Elementary.