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Southern schools see enrollment boom, CMS says

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DIEDRA LAIRD - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
Hawk Ridge Elementary in the Ballantyne area is part of a southern enrollment surge in CMS.

Schools in Mecklenburg County’s southern tip are growing faster than expected, leading Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials to say they’re confident they’ll meet their projections for almost 2,700 more students this year.

The official enrollment count for North Carolina public schools is taken on the 20th day of school, which falls on Sept. 23. In the past, CMS has also released a 10th-day count.

But because a new data system called PowerSchool has thrown some twists into the tally, Superintendent Heath Morrison and Scott McCully, executive director for student placement, said they aren’t ready to release numbers yet.

But Morrison said he’s confident the final count will hit or top the projection for 143,836 K-12 students, up from 141,171 a year ago. CMS is the state’s second-largest district, trailing Wake County.

Morrison also acknowledged that no matter how carefully CMS projects enrollment trends, some schools always yield surprises.

McCully said this year Community House Middle School and Polo Ridge, Elon Park, Hawk Ridge and Ballantyne elementary schools are surging past projections already. All are in the Ballantyne area in the county’s southern tip.

McCully speculated that MetLife’s opening of a retail operation in Ballantyne Corporate Park, expected to bring more than 1,300 jobs, is driving the growth.

“As our economy continues to grow, our enrollment continues to grow,” McCully said.

Public schools in the southern suburbs have traditionally been high performing and popular with families.

Before the recession, CMS built several schools to handle growing enrollment in the area.

The 2013 bond package includes $31 million to build a K-8 magnet school in the southern tip, which will absorb some of the growth and provide new academic options. But it’s not scheduled to open until 2020.

Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter: @anndosshelms
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