CHARLOTTE – Parents are asking Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to study the possibility of making the future relief school at Rea Farms into a full magnet school.
CMS finds itself at a crossroads of wanting to honor the language of the 2013 bond referendum while also meeting the needs of a rapidly growing community. The project was defined six years ago as a K-8 magnet school with a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
CMS shared three potential scenarios for the relief school during the April 23 school board meeting:
• K-8 school with a home school boundary and no choice seats.
• K-8 school with a home school boundary and choice/magnet seats.
• Middle school with a home school boundary and no choice seats.
Akeshia Craven-Howell, assistant superintendent for school options, said the scenarios were vetted against four board priorities: home to school distance, intact feeder patterns, school utilization and socioeconomic diversity.
Board member Rhonda Cheek encouraged staff to look at a fourth option: a full magnet school.
“To say now that we aren’t considering a full magnet scenario makes absolutely zero sense to me because that is what I thought we were voting on in that bond package,” Cheek said.
She stressed the importance of creating a magnet theme that entices children to want to leave their home schools.
Board member Sean Strain said the feedback he’s heard from parents is they prefer choice instead of a K-8 school configuration or a theme imposed upon them. He said a group of people put forward alternatives that haven’t been discussed by staff in the last few community engagement sessions.
“It’s troubling to me because that doesn’t feel like community engagement,” he said. “It feels like we’re talking to the community rather than talking with the community.”
Mary McCray, who chairs the school board, told Strain that staff addressed why it went with these options. She also noted that the board has to consider its four priorities when it comes to student assignment.
“I need every board member to be mindful that this project was not a vote from District 6,” McCray said. “It was a county-wide vote, and we have got to sit here as a board and represent everybody.”
Strain tried to respond, but McCray shut him down and began the public hearing.
Lee Sugg was among 11 people to speak at the public hearing.
“I know there have been a lot of different ideas and different opinions, but the one thing that has been consistent throughout the entire process is that the community is not embracing mandatory attendance at a K-8 school,” Sugg said.
Five of the speakers encouraged the school board to take more time to consider additional options.
CMS will hold another community input meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. May 9 at Providence High School. It will make a recommendation to the school board on May 14.
McCray said Superintendent Clayton Wilcox will not be at that meeting. She recommended the board hold off on a decision until the superintendent is able to join them.