CHARLOTTE – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is looking at adjusting the enrollment boundary for Providence Spring Elementary to ease overcrowding, but several members of the community say the district is only shifting the problem to a neighboring school.
Associate Superintendent Akeshia Craven-Howell said the issue of overcrowding surfaced last year as the district was establishing a boundary at the Rea Farms STEAM Academy. She said the boundary for the new school didn’t address relief at Providence Spring, but CMS vowed to continue the conversation in the 2019-20 school year.
Enrollment at Providence Spring in 2019-20 was at 961 students (133% utilization). CMS projects enrollment to grow to 1,055 by 2024 and 890 by
2029, but Providence Spring can’t add any additional mobile units to the eight already on campus.
So the district has shown the community three options, each of which affects McKee Road Elementary. Enrollment this year at McKee Road was at 584 students (102% utilization). The campus doesn’t have any mobile units, but it could accommodate between 10 and 16.
Scenarios are as follows:
• The blue scenario assigns a portion of the Providence Spring Elementary
attendance area that continues to Jay M. Robinson Middle to McKee Road
Elementary. Enrollment would be 831 students (145% utilization) for McKee
Road and 734 (102%) for Providence Spring.
• The orange scenario assigns the northern most portion of the Providence Spring Elementary attendance area to McKee Road Elementary. Enrollment would be 776 students (135% utilization) for McKee Road and 789 (109%) for Providence Spring.
• The yellow scenario would combine enrollment boundaries for both schools, making McKee Road a K-2 campus and Providence Spring a 3-5 campus. Enrollment would be 711 students (124% utilization) for McKee Road and 854 (118%).for Providence Spring.
CMS has eliminated the yellow option based on how poorly it performed on a survey. The district has added another scenario.
The gray scenario attempts to assign five intact neighborhoods, which are closest to McKee Road from Providence Spring to McKee Road. Enrollment would be 768 (134%) for McKee Road and 797 (111%) for Providence Spring.
Though the community had not seen the gray proposal, Craven-Howell acknowledged one drawback is a small number of students moved to McKee Road would advance to Crestdale Middle School.
Sean Strain, who represents the area on the school board, recommended May 26 the district consider another option that has gained traction in the community. Superintendent Earnest Winston said he would have to discuss it with Craven-Howell before showing that option to the community.
CMS is scheduled to have a final public hearing and vote during the June 23 board meeting, In the meantime, CMS intended to offer a webinar and a follow-up survey to parents around June 1.
“I think we’re in a difficult scenario here with regards to the COVID crisis the ability to hold proper community engagement and face-to-face meetings but I do think we have an opportunity on a decision like this to continue the proper engagement, so I would certainly appreciate the consideration,” Strain said.
School board member Margaret Marshall said she has been getting emails from parents asking the school board to hold off on redistricting until a longer term solution is found. She doesn’t think that’s an option since they can’t add students to Providence Spring. She’s not in favor of shifting students from Providence Spring to another school that would alter high school feeder patterns either.
Ten people spoke during the May 26 public hearing.
Shirin Vandekar, advocacy chair for Providence Spring, feels the community hasn’t had adequate opportunities for public comment due to COVID-19 and that survey results favoring the blue scenario are unreliable since the number of survey-takers representing Providence Spring was much higher than the school’s enrollment.
“I’m aware the board is attempting to continue with business as usual; however, effective community engagement is imperative with a decision like this. Providence Spring has not been given the opportunity to work together as a community with McKee Elementary to come up with an acceptable solution.”
Meghan Swedburg, incoming PTA president, encouraged the school board to delay the vote until August so the community can explore other options.
“The options that are currently presented – we haven’t seen gray – have divided our school community during this time and we need to be working together,” Swedburg said.
Three of the speakers identified themselves as board members of the Providence Plantation Homeowners Association, including President Bob Hayes.
Board member Ashley Feehan said it would be in the best interest of children to keep Providence Plantation neighborhoods together.
Julie Jensen said she moved to the Berkeley neighborhood five years ago because her family assumed it would be safe from redistricting. Their previous school system went through a redistricting every three to four years, bouncing her oldest boys from school to school twice.
“I believe we will be having this conversation again in the years to come, which would then possibly require our neighborhood to be moved again, she said.