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CMS Closings Good For Savings, Unclear For Academics

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools offered the first round of data last night on the impact of closing 10 schools last year.  The closures will save the district money, but it's unclear how they've affected academics. 

Two years ago, the CMS board voted to close the schools, saying it would save money and create better learning environments.  Last night, the district provided a whole slew of information to begin to see if that was the case.  Superintendent Heath Morrison pointed out the academic data isn't straight-forward. 

"It is important to remember it is a one year snapshot.  Some of the data looks promising.  Some of the data looks discouraging," said Morrison. 

The report focuses on students attending the newly-formed pre-k through 8 schools.  The results were mixed.  They showed rising fourth- and fifth-graders did slightly better than the year before.  And middle-schoolers improved in some areas, but declined in others.  Results varied quite a bit by school.  But nearly all the combined schools continued to score low. 

Morrison said it's too early to tell what impact the closures really have had on academics.  To determine that he says the district needs three more years worth of data.

"I do believe the positives do outweigh the negatives," said Thomasboro Principal Jan McIver. 

Morrison called on her to share her experience as head of a newly-formed pre-k through 8 school.  She said the new school structure has eased transitions for kids, parents and teachers.    

The information on cost savings is more cut and dry.  CMS says the closures will save the district $5.2 million a year, starting next year.  They also mean the district will avoid $138 million in renovation costs.  But many schools that had extra space, now have mobile classrooms to accommodate more students. 

A few parents came to listen to the presentation.  Michele Robinson was one of them.  Her daughter went to Waddell High School, but was moved to South Meck because of the closures.  Test scores dropped there, but not as much as at Harding. 

"I appreciate the snapshot," said Robinson.  "I was very disappointed in some, particularly E.E. Waddell into Harding.  Those scores were just…It shouldn't get into the forties, the drop." 

Most of the school closures were in low-income, predominately African-American neighborhoods.  That angered Robinson and many others, but she felt this report showed the district was listening.