Updated Wednesday, 11am
Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools staff on Tuesday presented the school board with a new long-range facilities plan that calls for new schools and expansions as well as new programs that Superintendent Heath Morrison said would meet a goal of expanding educational choices in the district. The plan includes a proposed $7.56 million addition that would turn Davidson Elementary School into a K-8 school.
The proposal also calls for a new $30.7 million school on the site of the aging J.M. Alexander Middle School in Huntersville. In a presentation, CMS says the existing building is “beyond economical repair.”
Altogether, the plan’s top 25 projects would cost $400 million, which would be funded through bonds, CMS said. Morrison outlined the plans at the school board’s regular meeting Tuesday night in Charlotte.
Among other things, the long-range plan would revive some closed buildings as new schools, to add programs or relieve crowding at other schools.
The former Oakhurst Elementary would become a new K-5 Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) magnet school. Starmount Elementary would reopen as an elementary school to relieve overcrowding at Huntingtowne Farms and Montclaire. And the Smith Family Center would become a new full-magnet Math and Science High School.
“The plan aligns proposed capital projects with Goal 6 of The Way Forward, which calls for the district to strengthen and expand educational choices for students to foster learning, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship,” Morrison said in an announcement released during Tuesday’s meeting. “It reflects our commitment to provide a personalized environment of academic excellence that inspires every child to achieve their personal best.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, school board member Tim Morgan praised Morrison for the magnet plan, in part because it could stem an exodus of families from the district.
“This plan, not only does it recognize that, but I’m also excited how it pushes those out into different parts of the county that in the past haven’t seen that model, haven’t been able to have real easy access to those magnet choices,” Morgan said.
DAVIDSON TO BECOME K-8
The school district is proposing a $7.56 million expansion of Davidson Elementary School on South Street. An addition at the south end of the existing building would house grades 6-8, to help relieve crowding at Bailey Middle School in Cornelius.
The district would pay for the project with bonds that would need voter approval and county authorization. No projected date was given for the change.
In a presentation, the district said the school would serve middle school students who live in the same area as the elementary attendance zone, which is primarily Davidson. That change would require approval from the school board. The move effectively would mean that Davidson would get its own middle school in addition to its own elementary school.
The new middle-school within a school would offer athletics, as at other middle schools.
Davidson Elementary parents were notified of the plans by a phone call from the school Tuesday. A public information session is planned Wednesday, April 10, at 6:30pm at Davidson Elementary, 635 South St.
LENNON LIKES THE SOUND OF DAVIDSON PLAN
School board member Rhonda Lennon, whose District 1 includes north Mecklenburg, said the Davidson K-8 proposal “is very enticing.” She said she hadn’t yet formed an opinion, and wants to hear what the community thinks about the plan.
“I think it sounds really exciting, but I try not to say I love it or don’t like it until I hear what they have to say. Because a couple of years ago we did some things in Davidson they didn’t like a whole lot,” Lennon said.
She was referring to the school board’s 2010 decision to close the Davidson IB MIddle School on South Street, and move the international baccalaureate magnet to J.M. Alexander Middle in NC 115 in Huntersville.
Lennon also wondered if the IB school building might have a future in CMS. (Lake Norman Christian School is currently in the second year of a 5-year-lease with CMS to use the building.)
“Did we look at all at repurposing the building that sits on South Street just a couple of blocks away from this (Davidson Elementary) school?” Lennon asked. “And if we did … that building I know … had a lot of pretty significant situations, because it was built in the ’40s.”
Superintendent Morrison and other officials said the school district had looked at the cost of renovating the IB school site, and it’s about the same as the cost of the addition at the elementary school. But the IB school also is smaller, and couldn’t accommodate as many middle school students as anticipated at the K-8 school – several hundred.
NEW SCHOOLS AND PROGRAMS
Other highlights of the long-range plan unveiled Tuesday:
- A new Albemarle Road K-8 Dual Language Magnet
- A new classroom building on a Central Piedmont Community College campus to expand the middle college program
- Greater access to Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs across the district
- A new South K-8 STEAM Magnet
- Expanded language immersion thru K-12 at E.E. Waddell Language Academy
- Mountain Island Elementary K-8 STEM transition
- New replacement schools for J.M. Alexander, Nations Ford, Berryhill and Statesville Road
- A new elementary school to provide J.H. Gunn and Lebanon Road relief
- Major additions and renovations at schools across the district
CMS said the projects in some cases would help alleviate overcrowding, replace aging buildings, and reduce the use of mobile classrooms.
“CMS plans for the capital needs of the district over a 10-year horizon to help drive cost efficiencies,” school board chair Mary McCray said in a statement. “We are highlighting our top 25 capital projects because Mecklenburg county managers have indicated they will likely pursue a three-year bond in the fall.”
Much of the funding likely would come from county-issued bonds. In 2007, CMS said, voters approved $516 million in bonds for school projects. CMS said those projects so far have been finished “on time and at or under budget.”
March 26, 2013, Presentation to the CMS board, “Long Range Facility Master Plan and Three-Year Capital Needs Assessment” (PDF)
See the CMS website, with the full “Way Forward” plan and related documents.
Watch Tuesday’s meeting on the web, cms.k12.nc.us
March 27, 2013, WFAE.org, “More Magnets, K-8 Schools Part Of CMS Building Proposal” – Read and listen to a report by Lisa Miller of our news partner WFAE-FM that offers an overview of the long-range plan and the possible coming bond referendum.
March 19, 2013, WFAE.org, “Mecklenburg Commissioners Consider Taking Over Ownership Of Schools”