Dilworth, Cotswold elementary schools to be “paired” with low-income schools under CMS proposal

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After more than a year of discussion, planning and not a little heartache, leaders of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools unveiled Tuesday night their proposal for reconfiguring the boundary lines that determine where students are sent to school.

The result is a plan that avoids major changes and is likely to be politically palatable. But there are a few incremental steps toward making CMS schools more diverse.

One of the most intriguing (and potentially perilous): Two affluent and long-established elementary schools would be “paired” with nearby low-income schools in a bid to diversify both sides.

The plan released Tuesday deals with home school boundaries. Every child in CMS is districted to a home school, where they are guaranteed a spot. That’s opposed to magnet schools, where parents can apply by lottery to get their kids in. CMS unveiled a plan in November to diversify magnet schools.

There are 138 home schools in CMS. Under Tuesday’s proposal, 75 would see changes. Only 21 would end up with more diversity.

The total number of changes is a little mind-numbing to wade through. You can look at the whole presentation here. Use Control-F to see if your school is part of it.

How will the paired schools work?

Dilworth Elementary’s zone will be combined with Sedgefield Elementary, lumping the two together into one mega district. Similarly, Cotswold Elementary will be combined with Billingsville Elementary creating its own mega district.

Both Sedgefield and Billingsville have heavily low-income populations despite being so close to affluent areas.

Under the plan, all the students in the Dilworth/Sedgefield district would attend Sedgefield Elementary for grades K-2 and then Dilworth Elementary for grades 3-5.

In the same way, they’d go to Billingsville for K-2 and Cotswold for 3-5.

Madison Park and Huntingtowne Farms get moved to more desirable schools

Just as developers set their eyes on the Park Road Shopping Center areas, CMS will now start sending most of those kids to more affluent and desirable schools.

Pinewood Elementary sits right in the heart of Madison Park. Students who live on the east side of South Boulevard will now go to AG Middle and Myers Park High.

Students on the other side of South will still go to Sedgefield Middle and Harding.

There is logic in this move and Madison Park will surely be happy, but this change seems to perpetuate the “other side of the tracks” boundary of South Boulevard.

Huntingtowne Farms will now primarily send kids to Carmel Middle and South Meck High instead of Sedgefield Middle and Harding High. This move makes a whole lot of sense because Sedgefield and Harding are really far away.

Huntingtowne Farms Elementary will still have a heavily low-income, Hispanic population.

Pineville students move from Community House Middle to Quail Hollow Middle

Pineville Elementary will no longer move to the Blakeney-area Community House Middle, which is overcrowded. Instead they’ll go to Quail Hollow, which is a heavily low-income school despite being right by the upscale golf course (I address this in my story on gerrymandered school districts).

What didn’t happen?

What’s almost more notable here is what didn’t happen. Nobody got moved from affluent schools like Ardrey Kell High or Providence High to lower-income schools.

By the same token, the plan does not break up concentrations of poverty in many CMS schools.

A few other notes:

  • Students inside the I-277 loop will now be sent to First Ward Creative Arts Academy, which will no longer be a full magnet. Uptown kids will then go to Sedgefield Middle and Myers Park High instead of being split to Ashley Park K-8 and West Charlotte High.

  • The recently opened Oakhurst STEAM Academy will now send students to Garinger High instead of Myers Park High or East Meck. This will probably affect this apartment complex I wrote about the other day where half goes to one school and the other half another.

  • The part of Selwyn Elementary that’s south of Fairview will be moved from AG Middle and Myers Park High to Carmel Middle and South Meck.
  • Most K-8 schools are being split back apart. These are primarily in low-income areas and elementary schools were crammed into K-8 schools during the economic recession.

Info sessions will be held on all these changes over the course of May. A final vote would come at the end of May.

Dunn’s take

As the school board crafted the proposal, many parents lined up in two distinct camps.

One side wanted to take the opportunity to really change up the lines to break up impoverished schools and create socioeconomic parity. The other was vehemently opposed to “busing for diversity,” or sending kids on long rides as part of a social experiment of some kind.

I always thought this was a false choice. Regardless, it’s very clear that one side won. It wasn’t the side pushing for diversity.

CMS is better off, I guess, than a lot of urban districts where affluent families have wholesale abandoned the city school district, leaving behind dysfunctional and low-performing schools. The school board is terrified of making big changes to affluent schools for fear that the families will flee to private or charter schools.

That’s why you didn’t see CMS make the tough but probably necessary choices on schools like Beverly Woods Elementary, McClintock Middle and the weird pocket of Pineville-Matthews Road that for some reason goes to Myers Park High.

I will be really interested to see what happens with the paired elementary schools affecting Dilworth and Cotswold. Both of those schools are truly in the heart of the neighborhood and families will understandably be upset that they won’t be able to walk their kids to school anymore.

But will they be upset enough to leave? We’ll see what happens.

If it’s successful, expect to see these pairings in more places in Charlotte.

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Andrew Dunn
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