By the time Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools rolls out its School Options Fair in January, it needs to come up with new, clear labels for its menu, Superintendent Heath Morrison said this week.
If you've been around CMS, you know it has neighborhood schools (or "home schools" or, in Morrison's recent terminology, "local schools") and magnets, where students apply for admission and go through a lottery if demand exceeds supply. But many of the new schools and programs outlined this week don't fit either category.
Two-year middle college high schools on CPCC campuses, a four-year early college high at UNC Charlotte and a small health-science high school at Hawthorne seem a lot like magnets. They won't have attendance zones; instead, students will apply to get in. The difference is that selection won't have to follow the CMS policy for the magnet lottery. (By the way, that policy is being revised. Check out the proposed changes here and the priority policy here. The changes look fairly minor to me, mostly reflecting the end of Title I choice, but I'm interested in others' views.)
|Cato Middle College High: Like a magnet, but not|
Then there are opt-in programs that are open only to students in one school zone, such as the proposed academy of advanced manufacturing and entrepreneurship at Olympic High. None of these approaches are new (think Cato Middle College High and Performance Learning Center, which are non-magnet magnets, or Myers Park High's IB program and Olympic's five mini-schools, which are zone-only choices). But they're proliferating. And Morrison said it'll be important to help families understand them.
Details about the new plans, including costs, will come at the board's Nov. 12 meeting. Morrison said the Nov. 5 bond vote will shape some of the proposals. And while he says there will be some cost to taxpayers, it may not be as great as people think, he said. Some proposals, such as the new Olympic school, will come from rearranging current resources, he said. There's state money to help with the college-based schools, and Morrison said CMS is seeking grants and support from business partners and higher education. At Hawthorne, for instance, he said students will use CPCC medical labs so CMS won't have to build new ones.
It was interesting to hear board member Tom Tate critique the cost-efficiency of charter schools at Thursday's MeckEd candidate forum. He noted that CMS can education around 2,000 students at a high school, while a charter school might require the same administration for about 200. "They money just doesn't work," he said. The same critique would seem to apply at the small schools CMS is creating, which Tate voiced enthusiasm for. Here's hoping those questions get aired in November.