Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools parents are frustrated after they voted for nearly $1 billion in school improvements three years ago, but the projects haven’t started.
Monday, CMS will begin collecting feedback from parents about the bond package.
Voters approved a $922 million bond with plans to build 17 schools and renovate 12 others, but in February, the district asked for more money from the county. CMS said the projected costs went up more than they thought.
In addition, the board also reduced the size of new high schools from 125 classrooms to 100. They said they did it to make sure the projects get done on time.
“We are looking at 4,100 seats. That gives me a comfort level that we have room to grow. I am looking at fiscal responsibility at a time when we and everyone else are seeing inflation,” Chair Elyse Dashew said. “I am looking at what gives us the best chance of building schools on time, and I want to do right by our kids. I want them to have state of the art facilities to learn in.”
CMS approved the classroom size reduction by a 7-2 vote. Board members Sean Strain and Ruby Jones voted no.
"You promised one thing and now you are going to go back on it," Jones said. "I think that is an abomination."
CMS deliberated more than three hours before making a decision. So many people attended the meeting that an overflow room had to be opened. More than a dozen West Charlotte High School supporters packed the meeting holding signs, including one that read, “We voted you in. We will vote you out.”
The decision affects new schools for West Charlotte High School, Palisades and the south Charlotte relief school. The West Charlotte school is supposed to be built by 2022.
CMS said the three new schools do not need to be any larger than 100 classrooms and accounting for projected growth, there will still hundreds of open seats for students in the three schools. Setting the scale at 100 classrooms will help make sure the projects are delivered on time, CMS said.
CMS is also running into a major funding issue. The school district does not have enough money now to fulfill the promises made in the 2017 bond. Mecklenburg County commissioners will consider additional funding for CMS in the coming months.
“Construction costs are rising faster than the inflation formula provided by the county for our planning purposes,” Superintendent Earnest Winston said. “We do not have enough money to complete all of the projects in the 2017 bond.”
Following the CMS meeting, West Charlotte alumni said they were livid about Tuesday’s vote.
“That's not what was told to us,” William Simmons said. “When you tell me ‘125,’ that's what I am going for. Then you go and bait and switch it again.”
“Not only was it a slap in the face, but my next goal is to get the ones who voted on this bond removed from office,” Fredrick Smith said.
CMS said no decisions have been made about the location of the south Charlotte relief school. Last year, CMS started testing the soil at South Charlotte Recreation Association fields near South Charlotte Elementary School. Numerous residents and school board members have raised concerns about the site.
The district will host a series of town hall meetings about the 2017 bond. They’ll be held at the below locations from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- March 9: Northwest School of the Arts, 1415 Beatties Ford Road
- March 1 : Providence High, 1800 Pineville-Matthews Road
- March 16: East Mecklenburg High, 6800 Monroe Road
- March 18: Mallard Creek High, 3825 Johnston Oehler Road
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