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Our roundup of the week's top stories in the Charlotte area and across North Carolina. Sign up here to get it sent straight to your inbox.

Holiday Week Was Busy For CMS-Mecklenburg County Budget Debate, Slow For COVID-19 Vaccines In NC

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Atrium Health
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Holiday weeks, like the Memorial Day week we just had, often provide some extra time to slow down, take a deep breath, maybe go for a hike and prepare for all the busy work ahead.

In the case of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Mecklenburg County, this holiday week was spent preparing for a likely showdown.

A month ago, Mecklenburg County's manager announced a plan that would withhold $56 million from the county budget intended for CMS until the school system produces a plan for how it intends to close the achievement gap between students of color. This week, county commissioners voted to approve that budget plan.

That set into motion a dispute resolution process that includes a joint meeting between the two boards with a mediator. That mediator was selected, and the meeting will take place early this coming week.

WFAE's education reporter, Ann Doss Helms, broke down some of the statistics at issue in the budget standoff, showing that data says CMS had the largest number of low-performing schools in the state (it's also the second-largest district). The 25% rate was high enough to earn CMS a low-performing district rating.

But CMS is not alone. Thirty-four of the state's 115 districts had even higher percentages of schools rated low-performing. Others in the Charlotte region with more than 25% of schools rated low-performing in 2019 include Anson County, Rowan-Salisbury and Kannapolis.

It's a complicated and difficult issue to tackle, according to experts. Not even Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles would take a side when asked about it this week.

"I don’t know that any school district in the country has successfully, completely and permanently closed the achievement gap," said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools.

CMS students in class.
Gwendolyn Glenn

When it comes to other battles in our lives right now, we're in a strange place in the fight against the coronavirus. Half of North Carolina's adult population is now fully vaccinated, but demand for the COVID-19 vaccine has dropped so substantially in recent weeks that the state did not accept any new vaccine supply this week for the first time. And Gov. Roy Cooper still is mulling whether to enact a vaccine incentive program, like the $25 gift card pilot program in Mecklenburg County.

Though vaccination has stalled, it seems most people are ready to be done with the pandemic regardless. WFAE health reporter Claire Donnelly reported on how local face mask manufacturers have a surplus of "many millions of masks" as demand has dropped precipitously.

Finally, WFAE's Laura Brache, a Report For America fellow who has moved on to her next stop in Raleigh, helped humanize the story of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border by explaining how one Guatemalan father brought his four youngest children to Charlotte with the help of a "coyote." He said it was his last resort after two of his daughters had been sexually assaulted by gang members in their hometown and later received death threats. Laura's story is the kind of story that is good to take some time to read and sit with for a while to absorb it all.

Father waited for months as his four children traveled from Guatemala to Charlotte
Laura Brache
Mynor is a father and grandfather living in North Carolina who nearly seven years ago had to wait for months as his four children traveled from Guatemala to Charlotte. Pictured here are Michelle, Jhanko, Leslie (top from left to right), Leslie's daughter Genesis, Mynor, Shirley, and Sandy (bottom from left to right.)

ICYMI: MORE LOCAL NEWS

Democrats Blame Politics For NC GOP's Rejection Of Cooper's DEQ Secretary

Republicans in the state Senate on Thursday rejected Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's nomination of Dionne Delli-Gatti as environmental secretary. The governor immediately appointed her to another environmental job: clean energy director.

Tension Brews Over Mandatory Masks In NC Schools Next Year

With in-person classes looking likely for next school year, the question of whether masks are required in schools is shaping up to be the next COVID-19 pressure point.

In An Unusual Dispute, Two Charlotte Leaders At Odds Over 2040 Plan

After weeks of fighting over single-family zoning among City Council members, a new dispute has broken out between two high-level Charlotte officials over the 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

Chlorine Tablet Shortage Could Pose Challenge To Pool, Hot Tub Owners

Charlotte-area pool and hot tub owners may have a hard time finding chlorine tablets to sanitize their swimming pools because of a nationwide shortage.

Here Are Some Of The Best Hikes Within Day Trip Distance Of Charlotte

North Carolina has trails nearly everyone can enjoy — whether you’re a longtime outdoor enthusiast, someone who got into hiking during the pandemic or a newcomer looking to explore. Here are some suggestions for hikes within day-trip distance of Charlotte.

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Dashiell Coleman
Linville Gorge Wilderness is seen from the Table Rock area in summer 2020.

FAQ CITY

On May 20, 1775, it's said that influential men of Charlotte declared themselves "free and independent" of British rule. In honor of Meck Dec Day, this week FAQ City is revisiting a 2018 episode about Charlotte's Revolutionary War history.

AMPLIFIER

Amplifier is a biweekly podcast, not a full-length documentary. If it were the latter, we could easily dedicate a few hours to the work of Jim Brock, the Charlotte Native American music veteran who has been heralded by various publications as one of the best drummers alive.

COMMENTARY

Charlotte lost a great photographer last week. WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson also lost a friend. In his On My Mind commentary, Tomlinson ponders that time in life when friends start to leave us — and how their lives change ours.

BEST OF CHARLOTTE TALKS

Popcorn. Absurdly large cups of soda. Voices (hopefully) hushing as the lights dim. The big screen is back open! Theaters are welcoming visitors back amid eased capacity limits after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions. What summer films await moviegoers, and how has the past year affected the way we watch films?

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