Morrison seeks to reverse art schools merger

10/30/2012 5:09 AM

10/30/2012 6:27 PM

A plan to merge two Charlotte-Mecklenburg performing arts schools into a single site could be headed for the scrap heap Tuesday.

Superintendent Heath Morrison plans to ask the school board to reverse a plan, adopted two years ago under former Superintendent Peter Gorman, to close University Park Creative Arts Elementary in northwest Charlotte and move its students to First Ward Creative Arts Academy in uptown.

The merger was to have gone in effect next August.

The possibility of scuttling the merger was raised by parent leaders and school officials at a board meeting earlier this month. Instead of agreeing to begin the process of shutting down University Park, off Beatties Ford Road in northwest Charlotte, Morrison asked for more time to study the plan.

The plan was adopted in 2010, while CMS was dealing with budget cuts and in the midst of school closings and mergers to save money. Gorman put the University Park-First Ward merger on hold, because it required complex multi-track scheduling. Hugh Hattabaugh, who was interim superintendent for a year after Gorman resigned in 2011, also delayed the plan for a year.

During an Oct. 9 school board meeting, Morrison heard from PTA leaders who suggested the merger might not make sense any more.

“Two years ago, the budget was different, the economy was different,” First Ward PTA officer Maria Lamb said.

Morrison later said he wanted another look at the merger. “Situations change, superintendents change,” he said.

Under the proposal Morrison plans to present the board at its meeting Tuesday, both University Park and First Ward will continue serving as arts magnet programs next year.

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