CHARLOTTE – Elyse Dashew said she received emails from constituents prior to a Nov. 7 meeting saying they were afraid Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was considering another round of student reassignment discussions.
One email from a Mint Hill resident, in particular, requested CMS not reassign high school students from Independence to Rocky River.
Having joined the school board midway through an intense student assignment review, Dashew told colleagues she wants to ensure if they open up student assignment again, that it’s something constituents want.
Much of the confusion and angst has been a result of the Municipal Concerns Act, a policy the school board approved after the state granted Matthews, Mint Hill, Cornelius and Huntersville the ability to open and operate charter schools.
The MCA not only tried to secure vows from the four towns not to create charter schools over the next 15 years (or else lose out on school construction), but also created a committee of school board members and representatives from the towns to evaluate issues like overcrowding. Jeff Miller, of Matthews, and Mike Cochrane, of Mint Hill, are members.
Administrators provided the committee with a report Nov. 7 of where the district stands in terms of student enrollment.
Akeshia Craven-Howell, associate superintendent for school assignment and choice, said CMS measures school capacity in multiple ways, including comparing the number of classroom teachers to classrooms, comparing student enrollment to the design of a building and how common areas, like cafeterias, are used.
She honed in on specific schools from the four towns to demonstrate how the district would consider reassignment based on these figures.
“These are not recommendations but this is just to give the public some insight into the types of things we have to consider, assess, measure and analyze any time we look to change student assignment or school boundaries,” she said.
For Matthews, she used Elizabeth Lane Elementary as an example. Since 26 percent of its students live in Matthews, CMS could consider aligning a portion of Charlotte students to surrounding elementary schools, such as Greenway Park, or underutilized schools, like Matthews and Crown Point elementary.
She also used Rocky River High as an example. She noted Rocky River didn’t have any students living in Mint Hill. High school students living in Mint Hill are assigned to Independence. CMS could consider Rocky River as an option for all high school students living in Mint Hill, with very little changes to existing students.
CMS also provided breakdowns of how many students attend schools within the towns they live, as well as how much property the district has available for future schools (none in Matthews or Mint Hill).
“This report shows our partners and really the community at large how complex our work is,” Dashew said. “Even how we measure crowding is complex. In order to solve these complicated problems, we all have to understand the complexity.”
Board member Rhonda Cheek said for years she has been asking for building utilization data based on the number of students each school was designed to hold.
While Cheek has a Davidson address, she lives outside the town limits. The same could probably be said for students in the Mint Hill area with Charlotte addresses.
“We need to know where kids are coming from to know where we should be building schools,” she said.
While Cheek wasn’t happy the school board approved the Municipal Concerns Act (she was not present for the vote), she was happy to receive the information provided by CMS.
“I wouldn’t say we enjoyed this process but it really has been enlightening for us, as well, because we lacked the same information you lacked and now have the common basis to understand these things,” Wilcox told the board.