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More Magnets, K-8 Schools Part Of CMS Building Proposal

Lisa Miller

Charlotte Mecklenburg School officials are gearing up for a bond referendum this fall.  They laid out a plan Tuesday night to build several new schools throughout the county, including three k-8 schools and a handful of magnets.

When districts start new schools they look at where the crowding is worst.  Often, those are schools with a lot of mobile classrooms.  Albemarle Road Elementary in east Charlotte has a lot.  So do Hawk Ridge Elementary in Ballantyne and Reid Park Academy in west Charlotte.  New schools are planned to take the pressure off all these places. 

CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison says that’s not the only objective of the district’s building plans.

“Rather than just saying we’re overcrowded in a particular area, so let’s build a brand new relief school, elementary, middle or even a k-8…what we’re trying to do is to offer opportunities,” said Morrison.  “We’re looking at where we offer choice in our school district and we have much more demand than we have the ability to meet that demand.”

For example, CMS has wait lists for its science and technology magnets and its foreign language immersion programs.  So the plan calls for two new STEM magnets that would serve elementary and middle school students, a math and science high school, and more immersion language offerings.

Morrison also wants to have several high schools throughout the county serve as hubs for career technical courses and have more honor students attend school on CPCC’s campuses. 

CMS board member Tim Morgan called the plan a homerun. He thinks the extra magnet options could keep families from leaving the district.  

“This plan, not only does it recognize that, but I’m also excited how it pushes those out into different parts of the county that in the past haven’t seen that model, haven’t been able to have real easy access to those magnet choices,” said Morgan. 

Many of the district’s magnets are now clustered in the center of the county. 

The plan would also push k-8 schools to the northern, eastern, and southern parts of the district.  Right now, nearly all of the district’s k-8 schools are in west Charlotte.  CMS started them a couple years ago when it closed several schools.  School board member Tom Tate isn’t sure how he feels about building three new ones. 

“I still look forward to some information on the k-8s and to rationale for moving forward that we’ve been promised over the last several weeks.  I need that in order to make decisions about many of these programs,” said Tate.    

The plan calls for opening two schools that were recently closed.  Starmount and Oakhurst would become elementary schools.  It would also replace four schools: JM Alexander Middle, Nations Ford and Statesville Road elementaries, and Berryhill prek-8. 

All these projects come to about $400 million.  The school board and county commission have to sign off on the plan before it would show up as a bond referendum on November’s ballot.  A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for April 9.

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.