The clock is ticking on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ reassignment decision

The clock is ticking on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ reassignment decision

Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

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For months, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ effort to balance student populations on overcrowded campuses has energized thousands of vocal parents. The district has made adjustments along the way to try to appease as many impacted south Charlotte families as possible.

  • But with each tweak to one neighborhood’s drafted attendance boundaries, another neighborhood feels the effect.

What’s happening: The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education votes Tuesday on the final set of maps that will impact around 3,500 students across 27 schools.

  • The maps are the result of months of collecting feedback on new boundaries. The goal is to fill a new high school opening next fall and a middle school opening in 2025.

Why it matters: CMS must accommodate growth in south Charlotte while making sure its buildings aren’t so full they need to rely on trailers as classrooms. Leaders want a redistricting plan that will last at least 10 years.

  • The district is also trying to balance socioeconomic diversity in Mecklenburg County’s most affluent area.

Zoom out: Despite the fact that many of south Charlotte’s schools are high-performing, parents say they’re concerned about travel times and about their children having the same feeder patterns as their peers.

What they’re saying: More than 100 people, including students, signed up to speak at the last school board meeting on May 23. It lasted hours. Groups of parents came out in droves in color-coordinated T-shirts, with protest signs and prepared speeches.

Zoom in: Advocates in a few areas say they feel blindsided over the latest maps, which are the superintendent’s final recommendation.

One is the Polo Ridge Elementary community. Currently, students move up to Jay M. Robinson Middle, then Ardrey Kell High. The latest draft would reassign students to both the new middle and the new high school. Previous iterations only sent kids to the new middle school.

  • Parent Maggie Donofrio, who started a petition, is concerned about her children having to “start fresh,” making new friends in both middle and high school. She’s also worried the new schools will lack community, and volunteer parents will bear the load of making two new schools successful.

“Why wouldn’t we evenly share the burden of change?” Donofrio asks. “No one school should be hit harder than any other. Everyone gets a little bit; no one gets too much.”

Courtesy of CMS

In part of the Olde Providence neighborhood, a green highlighted chunk shows students going to Providence High. Surrounding neighborhoods are shaded in pink, the color representing South Mecklenburg High.

  • “We want to know why just our neighborhood is being sent to Providence?” says parent Stephanie Jenkins. “CMS is on the right track, but singling out one neighborhood for Providence is concerning for our children.”
  • In the latest plan, South Mecklenburg would be 89% utilized in 2025. Providence would be at 100%, Jenkins notes.

Earlier this week, students formed a human chain connecting Alexander Graham Middle and Myers Park in protest of keeping that assignment over South Mecklenburg.

    Between the lines: School board members are meeting with staff this week to discuss options.

    • School board vice chair Stephanie Sneed tells Axios she’s focused on learning how the administrators made their decisions.

    Of note: Up to a third of impacted students have the option to start early at a new school or remain at their current school.

    Between the lines: Already, at least 50 people are signed up to speak at Tuesday’s school board meeting. The board faces some pressure from parents to delay the vote, especially from those whose children were impacted the most in the latest draft.

    • Come Tuesday, anything could happen, Sneed says. For now, there’s no way to predict if members will arrive as a united front on the vote or if members will be finalizing their decision at the dais.

    The bottom line: The board of education has the power to revise or adjust the maps, but staff is standing by its final recommendation, according to a district spokesperson.

    • “We’re going to make the best decision for the whole, for the community — not for one individual or one individual family,” Sneed says. “It is likely impossible to make every single person, every single household happy.”
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