The image of parents hunched over maps and jotting notes made the message clear:
People care deeply how lines are drawn to fill three new elementary schools opening in southwest Mecklenburg.
Not only does the challenge involve assigning students to the new schools, it also means trying to even out crowding at existing schools.
Also mixing things up: conflicting messages on enrollment growth. New rooftops are still sprouting in the southwest, suggesting more children on the way. Yet CMS's recent official enrollment count shows the overall district growing more slowly than expected.
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At last week's public meeting on the issue, one mom from the Berewick community suggested the new schools in southwest Mecklenburg aren't enough.
“That's what our neighborhood is – the five-and-under crowd,” she said, pointing to her two small children in attendance. “That's what's coming. We were not there five years ago.”
It all sent parents scribbling on large worksheets and maps. Members of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools planning department handed out materials to attendees so they could record their reactions to the proposed attendance zones.
One dad wrote several rows of numbers and added them up. A mom wrote on her worksheet: “Ensure enrollment balance.” Members of a neighborhood homeowners association sat together and traded ideas.
On the way are three new elementary schools in southwest Mecklenburg in the next two years:
The new Dixie River Road and new Youngblood/Steele Creek Road schools are slated to open in August 2009.
The new York Road/Red Fez Club Road school would open in August 2010. (All the schools are informally named after nearby major roads; official names won't come until later.)
Also, the new Belmeade middle school, opening in northwest Charlotte in August 2009, could have an impact on the southwest, too, by shifting attendance zones for Kennedy Middle School.
Parent input from this and other public meetings will be considered, according to Scott McCully, who oversees student placement for CMS. McCully said the feedback may make a difference in the final attendance zone plan, which the board is scheduled to approve Nov. 12.
At last week's meeting, parents asked how crowded schools in the southwest area would be when the new ones open.
School officials estimate the new Dixie River Road school would open at over 100 percent “utilization.” That's a figure Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools uses to describe how filled a school is, not including mobile classrooms. Figures also show the existing Steele Creek Elementary, already at 206 percent utilization, will drop in size. But it will still be at 127 percent.