Students who get suspended from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in the coming year may find themselves doing their time under a teacher’s supervision at a nearby rec center.
The district is opening eight suspension centers scattered across the Charlotte area, hoping to keep students safe and studying after they’ve been kicked out of school. It will be up to parents to decide whether to send their children to the new centers or keep them home.
Suspensions of up to 10 days are often used to remove disruptive students from classrooms and get their parents’ attention about the need for change. CMS logged more than 21,000 short-term suspensions in 2016-17.
But CMS is trying to ensure that suspensions don’t derail students’ academic prospects or put them in harm’s way. Ten days of screen time or hanging out in the neighborhood can feel more like a perk than a penalty to some students. When parents are at work or otherwise absent, young children may end up unattended and older ones may get into worse trouble.
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While suspensions happen everywhere, they are particularly prevalent in high-poverty schools where most of the students are African-American and Hispanic, according to a recent CMS report titled “Breaking the Link.” Suspensions contribute to high absence rates, which can undermine academic performance at those schools.
Students who attend a suspension center instead of going home will not be counted as absent. For high school students, a 10-day absence can lead to failing grades and throw students off track to graduate on time.
The recreation-center sites are open only to students who are suspended for relatively minor infractions. Those who qualify for long-term suspension — for instance, major weapon or drug violations, chronic fighting and frequently disrupting class — may be reassigned to Turning Point Academy, an alternative school.
Suspension centers aren’t a new idea, but they were sidelined by cost-cutting during the recession, said Kathy Elling, the CMS administrator in charge of the new centers. The county is providing space, and CMS is hiring a teacher and a behavior modification specialist for each site.
Each student’s options will be limited by grade level — CMS doesn’t want kindergarteners and teens mingling — but beyond that it’s up to the family to choose a site.
Albemarle Road Recreation Center in Mint Hill/east Charlotte, grades 6-12.
Arbor Glen Outreach Center in west Charlotte’s Arbor Glen area, grades K-8.
Elon Recreation Center in south Charlotte’s Ardrey Kell area, grades K-5.
Hickory Grove Recreation Center, in the old Hickory Grove school in east Charlotte, grades K-5.
Ivory/Baker Recreation Center in north Charlotte’s Double Oaks area, grades K-5.
Naomi Drenan Recreation Center in southeast Charlotte’s Cotswold area, grades 6-12.
Tuckaseegee Recreation Center in northwest Charlotte, grades 9-12.
Wallace Pruitt Recreation Center in west Charlotte’s Wesley Heights/Seversville area, grades K-5.