Education

Coming Tuesday: CMS board meeting on magnets, poverty and diversity

An April public hearing on student assignment drew crowds with signs.
An April public hearing on student assignment drew crowds with signs. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

A major update on student assignment in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is scheduled Tuesday, when the school board holds a work session to talk about ways to use socioeconomic status and transportation to increase diversity in magnet schools.

The session comes after a summer lull in a review that has been going on for more than a year. It is expected to bring changes to magnets and other opt-in schools for 2017-18. The meeting, which is open to the public, starts at 4 p.m. in room 267 of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St. It will be broadcast live online and at CMS-TV Cable 3.

Board Chair Mary McCray said it’s slated to last as long as four hours, as board members, CMS staff and consultants discuss options for using school choice to reduce concentrations of poverty and give students alternatives to persistently low-performing schools. Possibilities include revisions to the admission lottery and transportation zones, she said.

The board began discussing student assignment changes in 2015 as part of a periodic review of its policy. The current plan calls for CMS to focus on magnets and choice during the first phase, which will culminate with a November vote on changes that will affect the January 2017 magnet lottery.

CMS will hold 12 meetings around the county from Aug. 8-18 to answer questions and take public comments about the first phase of the review. The first session will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday at Mallard Creek High, 3825 Johnston Oehler Road.

A second phase, focusing on neighborhood schools and boundaries, will start this fall and culminate with a vote in summer of 2017 about changes for 2018-19.

Thousands of families have already answered surveys and turned out for meetings about the review. Reactions have ranged from hope that policy changes can reverse racial and economic isolation in high-poverty, low-performing schools to fear that missteps will undermine successful schools and drive parents to private and charter schools or nearby counties.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

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