Your Schools

Inside slide at Charlotte charter school excites kids and adults

I’ve visited a lot of schools in 14 years covering education. But until I went to Invest Collegiate: Transform for a story last year, I’d never seen one with a curlicue slide inside the building.

The K-8 charter school opened in temporary classrooms on the western edge of uptown Charlotte in 2013. The three-story permanent building that opened the following year features a huge metal tube that spirals from the second floor to the first.

I went back recently to see why they have it – and whether it’s as much fun as it looks.

Invest Collegiate: Transform, which has about 500 students, uses a ride on the slide as a reward for students who excel on tests or demonstrate leadership and citizenship, said Assistant Principal Jamaal Young. It’s also an attention-grabber for prospective families – charter schools must compete with each other and with traditional public schools for enrollment.

The students who demonstrated reacted with whoops, giggles and dramatic exits from the slide, which sends a rider bumping rapidly through the dark before being sent flying at the end. “Awesome sauce!” two older boys proclaimed.

The slide is big enough for adults, and Young says they enjoy it as much as the kids. I verified that. Three times.

The Charlotte school didn’t create the concept of an in-school slide. The best-known one is at the Ron Clark Academy, a private middle school in Atlanta that has received national attention for Clark’s high-energy, nontraditional approach.

Invest Collegiate: Transform has had its challenges with money (including the cost of the building), enrollment and academic performance. It saw academic gains in 2016, though no one’s giving credit to the slide.

Truth is, in a world where adults wrangling over policy and politics often grab the headlines, I just thought it was worth remembering that school can be as much fun as, well, a bunch of 5-year-olds flinging themselves into a slippery metal tube.

I still expect to spend most of my time covering big, complicated issues. But if you know of a Charlotte-area school that’s doing something that’s so cool and quirky that others would like to see it, let me know.