CMS has 26 active construction projects. They range from gym renovations to new school construction.
Ten are in the construction phase, seven are in the design phase, and nine are still in their earliest planning phases.
Why it matters: Having safe and healthy schools with good ventilation is vitally important now. The pandemic has exposed the fact that most of the schools with HVAC systems that don’t meet CDC guidelines are in predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, according to an Observer analysis last fall.
- The Capital Improvement Programs are a part of a bond package. The current plan shows the district’s construction projects from 2019 to 2023.
The enrollment drop of about 6,000 students won’t affect current construction plans. Despite the falloff there is still plenty of work to be done to serve the remaining 140,000-plus CMS students, CMS consultant Dennis LaCaria tells me. And, he says, the district doesn’t tend to plan projects around predicted growth.
- “We’re not looking through a crystal ball, we’re still looking in the rearview mirror,” LaCaria said. “We’ve never really kept up with growth that’s happened here explosively really since the mid-90s.”
Plus, the number could go back up next school year because many of the students represented in that enrollment drop are would-be kindergarteners whose parents will start them in 1st grade. (Kindergarten is not required in North Carolina.)
What’s happening: Projects range from the new south Charlotte high school, which hasn’t broken ground and is expected to be complete in 2024, to the new Olympic relief high school, which is set to open in August 2022 and has a live construction cam for community members to watch the project in real time.
- A number of the district’s current construction projects involve majority Black and Hispanic schools. West Charlotte, which was built in 1954, is being rebuilt, Garinger High will undergo renovations that add additional classrooms among other updates, and West Mecklenburg is getting a new gym.
Of note: While current construction plans are set, the racial justice movement and coronavirus pandemic are highlighting construction-related issues, and bringing them to the forefront.
- “(Equity) has always played a part, (but) it has not been as explicit a part, I don’t think, as it should’ve been,” LaCaria says. “It looks like a lot of different things. It looks like the background noise in a classroom because the HVAC system is too loud and so the kids in the back can’t hear as well as the kids closest to the teacher, and that impacts their teaching and learning.”