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New CMS schools, programs could offer options for hundreds

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools could offer hundreds of students new attendance options for 2014, many of them focused on engineering, math and technology, under proposals outlined Tuesday.

The school board is slated to vote Dec. 11 on 10 proposals, allowing students to make choices in the winter magnet lottery for 2014-15. The plans range from an early college high school on the UNC Charlotte campus to a new Montessori magnet in Huntersville. Many of the programs offer a focus on STEM – for science, technology, engineering and math – or STEAM, when arts are added.

Costs and other details were not available Tuesday, but the board is scheduled to talk about the plans again Nov. 12. Many of the changes have been discussed publicly for months.

The expanding menu of CMS options comes at a time when the district is competing with a growing number of charter schools (public schools run by independent boards). North Carolina is also rolling out tax-supported scholarships to help low-income families attend private schools starting in 2014.

CMS’ five-year strategic plan, rolled out last week, calls for creating more options that better prepare students for college and careers in a rapidly changing world. The latest list includes magnets, specialized neighborhood schools and academic-alternative schools that could screen students based on interests and teacher recommendations.

Board member Rhonda Lennon said she believes the proposed new Montessori school will pull north suburban students back from charters and private schools. And she said a new health science high school will open career doors: “You can’t outsource hands-on medical care.”

The proposals include:

• Creating an early college high with an engineering and energy focus at UNCC’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center, known as EPIC. It would open with about 65 ninth-graders in August and expand to serve 325 students in grades 9-12. Students could earn up to two years of tuition-free college credit in high school.

• Offering about 400 seats for 11th- and 12th-graders at new schools on Central Piedmont Community College’s Levine and Harper campuses. Those schools, modeled on Cato Middle College High, let students take high school and community college courses on a schedule that’s more flexible than traditional schools. The Levine school will open in January with about 36 students.

• A technology-based magnet called “iMeck Academy” for ninth- through 12th-graders at Cochrane Collegiate Academy. High school students who live in the zone for Cochrane, which is a 6-12 neighborhood school, would be assigned to Garinger starting in 2014-15 unless they apply for the magnet. Cochrane would remain a neighborhood school for grades 6-8.

• A medical science academy at Hawthorne High, which will be temporarily placed at the old Derita school next year while Hawthorne is renovated.

• A new academy of advanced manufacturing and entrepreneurship at Olympic High, opening next year with students in grades 9 and 10 who live in the Olympic zone but eventually adding 11 and 12. Two of the five small schools at Olympic would be consolidated.

• A STEAM magnet at McClintock Middle, which also serves neighborhood students.

• A STEM magnet at Coulwood Middle School, opening with 100 sixth-graders in August. The request for a magnet came from the Coulwood community.

• A K-5 engineering magnet program in the new neighborhood school opening in August in southwest Charlotte, pulling students from Winget Park Elementary.

• A pre-K through sixth grade Montessori magnet at Long Creek Elementary, using the old school on the grounds. It would open with about 160 students in pre-K through fourth grade, adding grades to reach 320.

• Allowing fifth-graders at Mountain Island Elementary to stay there for sixth grade, the first step toward converting to a K-8 school. School families have asked for the change. It would be a neighborhood school with a STEM focus.

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