Board of Education reviews school closings, other changes

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The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education held a three-hour work session Oct. 11 to review staff proposals for school consolidations, closings and other changes. The work session was another in a five-month series of meetings and community forums intended to help the Board conduct a comprehensive review of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The Oct. 11 meeting focused on further refinement of the proposal first brought forward by staff Sept. 28, as well as a review of the financial and human-resources aspects of the changes. More than 70 of the district’s 178 schools will be affected by the proposal if it is adopted by the Board. A vote is scheduled Nov. 9.

A spreadsheet presented to the Board during the Oct. 11 meeting showed an initial estimate of potential savings and costs associated with the proposal, as well as possible staffing implications. In all, the staff estimated that the changes would save CMS about $3.3 million in the first year, with that savings rising to more than $6 million the second year.

“These are preliminary numbers – we will continue to work on them,” Superintendent Peter C. Gorman told the Board.
The current proposal would provide targeted assistance to nearly 30 schools to improve school quality and public perception, and also to help schools deal with mobility issues (a very transient student population). Some of the 30 schools are academically challenged. Others are perceived as academically challenged by families who opt out of them, despite significant progress in recent years. Still others have mobility issues and academic challenges.

The proposal would also adjust boundaries for two elementary schools and a middle school. It would close eight schools, consolidate three others and relocate three more. One school would be consolidated and relocated and 17 others would have new or expanded programs that would add students and staff.

New to the list of schools proposed for closing was Lincoln Heights Elementary. Staff suggested closing Lincoln Heights and using its building for Villa Heights, a small and highly effective magnet program. The staff also added a third school, Bruns Avenue Elementary, to a list of schools that would serve pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Another refinement would affect Phillip O. Berry and Harding University by closing the math and science magnet program at Harding (the school would retain its International Baccaulaureate program) and opening a new one at Phillip O. Berry. The staff also proposed moving Morgan School, which serves exceptional children, to the site now occupied by Oakhurst Elementary and closing that school.

A community forum on changes proposed for schools in the West Charlotte area will be held Oct. 12 at the Government Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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