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Eastover boundary proposals fuel concern, frustration at other schools

About 500 parents, teachers and students attended a community meeting to discuss changes to the boundaries for Eastover

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is looking for a way to handle overcrowding at Eastover Elementary by next school year. And right now, two of the three options on the table would shift the arts magnet program currently at Dilworth Elementary to First Ward Elementary. This would free up Dilworth to become a neighborhood school and take in Eastover and First Ward students. It would also mean displacing the First Ward children and staff. In forming these options, the district took into account the plan that will disband First Ward's current magnet program completely by next school year. Scores of unhappy First Ward parents, teachers and students attended the crowded community forum last night at Myers Park High. First Ward PTA President Debra Albritton rallied parents to fight the two options. "Fifty-six percent of our teachers have advanced degrees. We have 12 percent that are board certified, much higher than Dilworth's and Eastover's. So why do we have to surrender everything? We're in a lose-lose situation," she said. First Ward is a Title One school, this means it receives federal funding for additional resources. The student population is 95 percent African American and 88 percent of students receive free or reduced price lunch. Under the options, its teachers would get first crack at applying for jobs at a new Dilworth neighborhood school. But that's little comfort to teacher Bria Gardner. She says, "All of the teachers at First Ward chose to teach there because of the demographics. We believe that these children need us and we are trained to help them. So when you're splitting up our children and we're going to be displaced, where are we going to go to help the children that we were trained to help?" The third option keeps this same Dilworth-First Ward scenario, but brings Selwyn Elementary into the mix. CMS student placement director Scott McCully says this option came from public input. Selwyn's boundaries would be redrawn to accommodate Eastover kids. A number of Selwyn parents, who took up an entire side of the packed cafeteria, said they were blindsided by this option. Selwyn Parent Laura Kabrich says the school was brought in at the eleventh hour. "There's just no need for Selwyn's boundaries to be changed. We're not in the fight and I'm not sure how we got brought in but we did And we're happy! As far as I know there's been no one that's complained that we're not happy. So we opt that option C be completely drawn off the board," she says. Representatives from both of these schools pointed to the first option, which turns the full magnet programs at Myers Park Traditional and Elizabeth Traditional into partial magnets so they can absorb Eastover students. But parents at Myers Park and Elizabeth are zealously guarding the diversity they sought when they enrolled their kids at the schools. As one Eastover parent put it, there will most definitely be some very unhappy parents once the school board approves a boundary option for his school. The board's vote is expected on November 10th.