Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has been busy over the summer preparing for the approximately 148,299 students who will return to class on Aug. 27.
During a recent media briefing, CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said that while enrollment was higher than expected, the district is opening three new schools to accommodate the growth. The schools include Charlotte East Language Academy (A K-8 school on the Eastland Mall site), a converted Villa Heights Elementary School and Wilson Middle School.
The district also made improvements to facilities, as well as changes to how it handles student discipline and social-emotional health.
According to Kathy Elling, associate superintendent of student services, CMS is going into the new school year with additional resources such as 10 school psychologists, 33 elementary counselors and seven teen social workers. There is also a program to train teachers and staff in emotional literacy and eight new short-term suspension centers for students who are given out-of-school suspensions. The centers are being offered at no cost to the district through a partnership with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation.
“They will be staffed with a teacher, a behavior support and someone who can work through some social-emotional supports with the student while they’re there,” Elling said.
CMS is continuing to hire teachers, but there remains an estimated 78 vacancies, 40 percent of which are at the high school level, 25 percent middle school, 25 percent elementary school and 10 percent are multi-grade teachers. Bus drivers are also still being recruited and trained.
Over the summer, the school board appointed a chief academic officer, Brian Kingsley, who was assistant superintendent of academics at Wake County Public School System. The board also chose Lisa Mangum as CMS chief of police and hired a new assistant superintendent for fine arts, executive director of transportation and executive director of facility and planning management.
The IT department helped maintain and install school technology over the summer, upgraded network infrastructure and touched over 23,000 devices making sure they are ready for students on the first day. Wilcox said the district has revamped its guest sign-in procedures and is looking into making security improvements, such as enhancing door locks, camera systems and motion detectors. There is also a plan in place to partner with CMPD to provide students with “active survival training.”
“So that our young people know what to do in the event that something unthinkable happens on their campuses,” Wilcox said.
CMS has partnered with the software platform Nutrislice to implement digital menus and signage. Cafeterias across the district will now offer detailed nutritional information.