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CMS assignment poll opens; here’s what you need to know

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board is reviewing student assignment for possible changes in 2017-18.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board is reviewing student assignment for possible changes in 2017-18.

If you live in Mecklenburg County, it’s your time to tell the school board what you think about where kids go to school.

An online survey goes live Friday and will be up for three weeks; look for it at www.cms.k12.nc.us. The goal is to learn more about public views on bus rides, magnets, diversity, schools close to home and other issues related to student assignment. Results, which will be reported in March, will guide Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in the district’s ongoing review of assignment policies.

Here are some questions that have arisen in the lead-up to the poll.

Q: Do you have to have children in CMS to participate?

A: No. The school board wants to hear from everyone, including students, adults with no children and parents whose children go to charter or private schools.

Q: Can you “stuff the ballot?”

A: There’s probably a way to game any system if you try hard enough, but the survey is set up to recognize cookies and IP addresses and allow only one response per computer.

Q: What about families who don’t have Internet access at home?

A: Schools and libraries have computers available for public use, and schools will also have paper copies available on request. I’m not sure how public computers work around the one-survey limit, but CMS staff assures me that’s an option.

Staff will also monitor responses during the three-week window, which runs through Feb. 22, and make extra efforts to reach neighborhoods and communities that seem to be underrepresented.

Q: How can parents answer for multiple children?

A: This is a bit of a puzzler, because parents may have different answers for different children, especially if there’s a wide gap in ages or the kids are in different types of schools. Lynne LaCaria, who is running the survey for CMS, says the goal is to get “their perceptions and thoughts on CMS as a district. If they have multiple school-aged children, we want their overall, general sense of the district.”

The nonprofit Council for Children’s Rights has launched its own online “school boundary survey,” asking only for a ZIP code, whether participants have school-aged children, whether they support “a policy to redraw school boundaries in Charlotte-Mecklenburg,” and why or why not. That poll, found at www.cfcrights.org/cfcrsurvey, will be used to guide the group’s policy work, according to the website.

Meanwhile, people who prefer a face-to-face discussion of assignment issues have several opportunities coming up, sponsored by private organizations:

Saturday: The League of Women voters hosts a discussion from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at South County Regional Library, 5800 Rea Road. School board member Tom Tate, who chairs the committee that has led the assignment talks, will be one of the presenters.

Feb. 6: The league hosts the same panel from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at North County Regional Library, 16500 Holly Crest Lane, Huntersville. For information about either session: Helene Hilger, hhilger@uncc.edu, 704-568-5431.

Feb. 8: OneMeck hosts a presentation by Amy Hawn Nelson of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute on CMS demographics and student assignment, 7 p.m. at Harrison Church, 15008 Lancaster Highway, Pineville. Details: info@oneMECK.org.

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

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