The three new Charlotte-Mecklenburg elementary schools opening next week include an unusual three-story building, a school in a park, and a building that has been move-in ready and was used by other students and staff last year.
Among the happenings:
There's Ballantyne Elementary, a school unusual in its configuration and origins.
The three-story building – only the fourth CMS elementary school with this design – is surrounded by 88 subdivision lots the school district purchased in 2005. CMS prepared the lots for sale by building roads, clearing lots and laying utility lines. The plan called for selling the subdivision by now, but the slumping housing market delayed that plan. The district still hasn't sold the subdivision, CMS planner Mike Raible said last week.
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Inspiring road names surround the school. It sits on Scholastic Drive, and the road leading to the school is called Great Future Drive.
Construction is on time for the scheduled Aug. 25 opening for students, according to Principal Sharon Damaré. She was in the school Friday, unpacking boxes. But the tight time frame means there will be no open house before the start of school, so Damaré is welcoming parents to come inside on the first day, meet teachers and check out the building. Enrollment is projected at 686.
“The PTA will be set up,” said Damaré, who is starting her 25th year with CMS. “People can buy brand-new Ballantyne (Elementary) sportswear. I'll have people all around directing. It's a very exciting time; no one has seen the building yet. A lot of ‘oohs and aahs,' I'm expecting.”
Elon Park Elementary teachers and students are finally home. Students and staffers used a nearby new school last year (more on that below) while its permanent building on Ardrey Kell Road was being built. Construction finished in June on Elon Park, which sits on the grounds of the 521 District Park. Students will be able to use the synthetic fields recently added to the park, Principal Steve Drye said.
For a smooth move, teachers organized color-coded boxes before school let out in June so movers would get them to the right classroom wings in their new building. “It really went off without a hitch,” said Drye, a 13-year district veteran.
The building, built for 850 students, will have 794 this year, Drye said.
Polo Ridge Elementary, on Tom Short Road, actually opened last year, but not to its own students. Instead, the building served as temporary space for Elon Park Elementary.
Now, Polo Ridge has been spruced up with new paint, polished floors and a shined-up cafeteria, Principal Patricia Riska said. “It just looks like a brand-new facility,” she said. Not that maintenance crews had to do much. Riska said Elon Park's teachers were kind on the building and didn't make any permanent changes, such as putting holes in walls for pictures.
The school had 761 enrolled as of earlier this month, up from the original estimate of 711.
Riska is a 19-year veteran of CMS and spent the last nine years at University Meadows Elementary on the north end of Charlotte.
“I am really excited. I think opening a school is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Riska said. “To be able to select people to come together to create a whole new culture, I don't know what could be more exciting.”