Two waves of change are converging at Bruns Academy.
It’s one of eight hastily merged elementary/middle schools the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board is reviewing for possible return to traditional grade levels. And its attendance zone in a historically black part of Charlotte is seeing an influx of more affluent and diverse young families.
If those families send their children to Bruns, the school could see its demographics shift away from the racial and economic isolation that tends to hobble urban schools. That’s a goal the school board is pursuing through a study of boundary changes, though many say school diversity based on natural housing patterns is even better.
But there’s no guarantee that families with options will send their children to a school where virtually all the students are poor and black, and where fewer than one-quarter of them passed reading and math exams last year.
A poll of about 70 neighborhood parents with preschool children found most aren’t willing to attend Bruns as it is now, says Justin Harlow, president of Biddleville-Smallwood Community Organization. But he and other newcomers argue that making Bruns an elementary school would help.
Replacing the aging building and adding a magnet program would help even more, says Harlow, a black dentist who says he’s trying to build bridges between long-time residents and newer arrivals, many of whom are white.
The community organization has met with CMS leaders, including Superintendent Ann Clark, and with Pamela Grundy, a CMS parent who worked to build diversity at the eastside Shamrock Gardens Elementary School.
“The new diversity (age and socioeconomic) helps give us an opportunity to get a big win on the west side,” Harlow said in December, shortly after a CMS session in the Bruns zone drew about 70 people.
Some of them showed up Tuesday to reinforce their message. As Harlow puts it: “Get rid of these K-8s and we will rally around.”