Not many places get public health inspections with “C” grades. But in the last four years, nearly half of them in Mecklenburg County were public schools.
County inspectors have dished out 47 “C” grades since 2014, and 20 of them went to schools, records show. Numerical scores between 70 and 79 get that letter grade. Five of those schools scored a “C” on their most recent inspection.
Sixteen went to restaurants, eight to hotels, two to food stands and one to a nursing home.
At Charlotte’s public schools, inspectors most often found things like dirty water fountains, damaged floor tiles, loose toilet seats, missing faucet handles, exposed wires and broken lights — in other words, noncritical nuisances.
Those are harder for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to deal with as the school district has added campuses and mobile classrooms while cutting the number of maintenance workers. The scores also illustrate the ongoing battle CMS faces against aging campuses.
In many cases, the scores went up in later inspections. But campuses consistently in disrepair can have a major impact on morale and community — and inspectors frequently point out repeat violations.
High schools, with their larger, sprawling campuses, tend to score lower. Older schools also generally have lower scores than newer campuses.
For example, Ardrey Kell High in south Charlotte (which opened in 2006) and Whitewater Middle on the westside (2009) have scored above a 92 in their three most recent inspections. Hawk Ridge Elementary has kept its building above a 91.
None of the “C” grades came from school food service programs, which also get inspected by the county. They all receive high marks.
The lowest scores came from older schools on the west side.
The worst scores went to Olympic High, West Charlotte High and West Mecklenburg High. The first two earned a 70 in 2015, and West Meck in 2016.
At Olympic, inspectors found a hole in the floor of a modular classroom, toilet tilted to one side because the floor under it had degraded, cockroaches in the auditorium and water bugs in the rest of the building.
At West Charlotte there were filthy toilets, broken faucets, leaking roofs, blown light bulbs and accumulated trash around campus.
West Charlotte improved to a score of 83 in their most recent inspection, in December 2016. West Mecklenburg improved to 78 in an August 2017 inspection, and Olympic improved to 85.5 in a September 2016 inspection.
Myers Park High earned a score of 72 in 2014, with violations including bathrooms with no soap, dirty sinks and water fountains. This school year, had been brought up to 90, which earns an “A.”
Butler High has made a remarkable turnaround, going from a 78 in 2015 to a 95 this past September.
CMS has roughly $120 million in maintenance projects it’s putting off for the time being.
The county has pledged about $18 million per year to get through the backlog. But it’s tough work with a declining staff for maintenance and custodial work.
In 2009, CMS had 770 custodians. By 2015, that had been cut to 680. A report to the school board that year showed that at the current staffing levels, each custodian was responsible for cleaning the equivalent of fifteen 2,000-square-foot homes each day.
CMS did not respond to questions for this story over winter break. But in response to WSOC story on poor cleanliness, the school district said the following: “CMS is committed to providing safe and clean environments for students and staff. … Our maintenance and building services teams work throughout the day and sometimes night to respond to all maintenance work orders as quickly as possible, with most being addressed within days of submission, emergency situations receive an immediate response. Our teams will continue to work diligently to keep our aging schools safe and clean for teaching and learning.”
Here’s the full list of schools that have received “C” grades.
Schools marked with a * scored a “C” on their most recent inspection.
Ashley Park PreK-8*
Cochrane Collegiate Academy*
David W Butler High
East Mecklenburg High
Lebanon Road Elementary*
Military and Global Leadership Academy
Myers Park High
North Mecklenburg High*
Queen’s Grant High
Reid Park Academy
South Mecklenburg High
West Charlotte High
West Mecklenburg High
Zebulon B Vance High