CMS’s $5 billion construction slate includes downtown high school and regional sports fields | WFAE 90.7
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Tuesday released a ranked list of 125 projects that would relocate magnetic program locations, reduce reliance on mobile classrooms, and take a new approach to high school sports.
It’s a first step toward choosing a shorter list of projects for a bond referendum in 2023, the first since voters approved a record $992 million five years ago. Construction consultant Dennis LaCaria said after the board meeting that 2023 demand is expected to be $2 billion or more, based on rising construction costs.
A plan to build regional sports facilities at a cost of about $70 million each sparked discussion at Tuesday’s school board meeting. LaCaria said they would have swimming pools, ball diamonds, tennis courts and football stadiums, all large enough to accommodate major tournaments and competitions.
He said high schools would still have facilities large enough for physical education classes and sports practices, but might not include stadiums with press boxes and a large number of bleachers. This would reduce the cost of some renovations, he said, and allow CMS to build different types of secondary schools as land costs rise.
“We already have land set aside to do a number if that’s something we decide as a community to pursue,” he said.
A long delayed promise
One of the top-ranked projects is a $175 million multi-story high school next to the Metro School in downtown Charlotte. It would be a school loving medical technology, working in partnership with Atrium Health and Central Piedmont Community College.
Board chair Elyse Dashew said the school is “really going to take us into the next era of Charlotte”, preparing students for jobs in the medical and support fields. At the same time, she said, it could help remedy a historic injustice.
Second Ward High School, an all-black school that occupied this site, was demolished in 1969 as part of the “urban renewal” destruction of the Brooklyn neighborhood. Dashew noted that school officials at the time promised to rebuild it.
“And that promise was never kept,” she said. “So maybe we’ve finally found the time to deliver on that promise.”
Time for public feedback
Tuesday’s report includes a ranking system that includes an “educational environment index.” Schools get extra points for renovating or replacing if conditions impede learning – things like poor air circulation, noisy heating and air conditioning systems, lack of natural light, and designs that make difficult for student safety.
LaCaria said the system also aims to reduce the reliance on mobile classrooms, which can lead to overcrowded cafeterias and staggered lunches from morning until time off.
One thing missing from Tuesday’s report are enrollment projections. LaCaria said the pandemic has caused student numbers to plummet in CMS and many other districts, and it’s still unclear how to forecast enrollment in coming years. He said the district hopes to better understand this when next year’s count is done in the fall.
LaCaria said the scoring system and preliminary list are meant to serve as starting points, with months of public engagement planned before the board votes on a bond list early in the year. next. For example, he said, CMS will launch a public inquiry into magnet programs this week.
Here are some of the top-ranked projects on the list:
- Upper South Mecklenburg would get an $81 million replacement of the oldest parts of its campus. This price could be lower if CMS adopts a regional sports facilities plan.
- Beverly Woods Elementary School would get a $49.5 million replacement building on site.
- Upper Mecklenburg East would get a $121 million replacement of the older parts of its campus (lower cost if regional athletics are adopted).
- Allenbrook Elementary School would be demolished, with a $49.5 million replacement school built at the Freedom Driving Range. This would probably require a boundary adjustment.
- Wilson STEM Academy would get a $61.5 million replacement school on the same site.
- Sedgefield Secondary School would be converted into a PreK-6 Montessori magnetic school, with Montessori Park Path move into this building. A replacement school would cost $49.5 million.
- Starmount Elementary School would be replaced onsite with a $49.5 million, 45-classroom building, with boundaries adjusted to accommodate some students from the Huntingtown Farms area.
- Harding high would get a $124.5 million renovation (lower cost if regional athletics is adopted).
- Dorothy Vaughan Academy of Technology, currently a K-5 school, would be replaced onsite with a $61.5 million, 54-classroom building. It would become a K-8 school, eventually expanding to K-12.
- A new college would be built in south Charlotte to relieve Community House Collegeat a cost of $61.5 million (site to be determined).
- Coulwood STEM Academy would get a $61.5 million on-site replacement.
- A new Second Ward Medical and Technological High School would be built next to Metro School in downtown Charlotte; it would also house administrative offices which are now in the Government Center. Cost: $175 million.
- the former Spaugh schoolnow used for staff services, would be demolished and replaced with a $49.5 million building that would house the secondary Montessori magnet now housed at JT Williams.
- University Park School of Creative Artsnow a partial magnet, would be replaced with a $42.5 million 39-classroom building and converted to a full magnet.
- Performance Learning Centernow hosted at former school of Deritawould move to EE Waddellwhich is converted to high school. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Virtual School, iMeck Academy and some programs Hawthorne Academy would also move to Waddell, which could also become the first regional sports facility. Derita would be torn down and replaced with an $18.5 million Alternative to suspension center.