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.
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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.”