South Mecklenburg County residents want school officials to rethink plans for a new K-8 STEAM school that is being planned as a way to ease overcrowding in several schools in the area. At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, parents’ ideas of what kind of school the area needs varied.
Funding for the new K-8 STEAM Rea Farm School in the Ballantyne community was included in the 2013 bond referendum approved by voters. The school was supposed to provide overcrowding relief to J M Robinson and Community House middle schools and their feeder elementary schools.
"The way to accomplish that is to have a K8 school with a schoolwide magnet theme and magnet seats and seats assigned as home school area seats,” said Craven-Howell, a CMS assistant superintendent.
But many parents disagreed with that assessment and with each other. Some were against having grades K-8 in one school; others wanted a traditional home school. Most were against a STEAM magnet school.
“When I voted yes for that bond what I was not voting for was a mandatory K-8 STEAM magnet that our neighborhood would be rezoned to attend as our home school,” said Brooke Koepple.
"We are in desperate need of another middle school for our area. We need not to just address overcrowding today but projected growth,” said Clemmons.
Clemmons and other Community House parents complained that the school does not have enough classrooms for teachers and that enrollment is at 1,900 in a school built for 1,200 students. After hearing from the parents, Craven-Howell told them that their concerns will be considered and that several scenarios for the new school will be developed.
CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox says other areas in the district face overcrowding as well, but he wanted to assure the parents that their concerns are being taken seriously.
“Quite frankly, I wasn’t here when this decision was made and I’m struggling with some of the decisions that were made myself and I’m pushing back against them with some board members, but I want you to know that we’ve heard you this evening,” Wilcox said.
School officials will hold a community meeting in Ballantyne Wednesday and Wilcox says they will make their recommendations before the end of the month.