CHARLOTTE – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools hopes to convince county leaders to put a bond referendum on the November 2023 election ballot.
To get there, CMS has launched a capital needs assessment, in which the district will outline potential construction projects. CMS will use feedback from district and county leaders as well as the public to create a capital investment plan.
“The whole point of this process is start early, engage the community, revise the product and move forward with the community’s plan,” according to CMS construction leader Dennis LaCaria.
CMS is not starting from scratch. It has a wishlist of 125 potential projects that could be completed over the next 10 years at a cost of $5.3 billion.
“That sounds like a lot – and it is – but a billion dollars also doesn’t go quite as far as it used to,” LaCaria told CMS’s bond oversight committee. “We delivered Rocky River and Hough High schools in 2010 for $52 million apiece. We are delivering substantially the same high school at Endhaven and Johnston Road for $130 million. Nothing has happened but time and the cost of things.”
CMS is looking at construction from an equity lens.
Schools with classrooms or buildings that negatively affect learning, staff morale or community perception may get priority, LaCaria said. Factors include a lack of outside air quality and natural daylight, as well as ambient noise, impacted lines of sight and insufficient core capacity.
Some of this was spurred by COVID-19.
LaCaria said a project considered for a renovation or addition in 2017 may now be designated as a replacement school based on that equity lens.
Adrianne Johnson, a member of the bond oversight committee, expressed concern that relief for Community House Middle School was within five projects away from being included in the 2017 bond package. Now it ranks 19th.
“Whether or not the Community House relief is No. 5 or No. 19, if it is above the line relative to the CIP – that’s the goal,” LaCaria said. “The goal is to get it accomplished and we know it needs to be accomplished. The reason why it’s not quite so high is because we did really emphasize explicitly that equity piece and we looked at things that were really to your point the result of COVID. We always knew indoor air quality was an issue and something that we needed to address but that really drove home the fact we have to address classrooms without windows, nonoperable windows, no way to introduce fresh air, noisy fan coil units.”
Simply put, a school may have overcrowding but not as many problems from a building standpoint.
LaCaria said schools want to be in the top 44 projects, which would amount to about $2 billion to $2.3 billion.
Another member asked LaCaria if the likelihood existed that the loudest communities had the power to catapult schools up the rankings.
Schools will be run through a scored rubric with factors such as educational environment, classroom utilization, condition, life cycle, external mandates/district initiatives and continuity with other projects.
Schools within Huntersville and Mint Hill are penalized slightly based on their leaders’ support of a municipal charter school bill signed into law a few years ago.
Straight from the presentation
Below is an initial ranking of school construction projects presented to the school board this month. Rankings may change after feedback from school leaders and the public:
9 South Mecklenburg: Onsite replacement of balance of campus, including athletics (unless regional athletics are adopted)
10 Beverly Woods: Onsite replacement; consider adjusting boundary
14 Sedgefield MS: Convert to PK-6 Montessori IB to house relocated Park Road Montessori; replace offsite
15 Starmount Academy of Excellence: Onsite replacement with 45 CR baseline ES; adjust boundary to provide relief to Huntingtowne Farms
16 Park Road Montessori: Relocate program to converted Sedgefield MS; replace with baseline school (potentially Sedgefield MS)
19 New MS #1: To relieve Community House MS at Site TBD
34 Albemarle Road MS: Onsite replacement
35 Albemarle Road ES: Onsite replacement
39 Olde Providence: Onsite replacement at rear of site; colocate new MS #3
42 Providence: Onsite replacement, to include athletics (unless regional athletics are adopted)
47 Matthews: Onsite replacement
50 Myers Park HS: Final phase of addition/renovation work, to include kitchen/cafeteria, auditorium, and athletics (unless regional athletics are adopted)
51 Lebanon Road: Onsite replacement
53 Crown Point: Onsite replacement
56 South Charlotte: 10 CR addition and comprehensive renovation
58 McKee Road: Onsite replacement
68 Huntingtowne Farms: Onsite replacement; connected to Starmount Academy project
71 Independence: Final phase of work, to include auditorium and athletics (unless regional athletics are adopted)
74 Crestdale: Comprehensive renovation
76 Smithfield: Onsite replacement
78 East Regional Athletic Complex: New multi-sport regional athletic competition complex with gymnasium; natatorium; stadium; fields; ancillary spaces potentially at Albemarle Road campus
81 Bain: Demolition of old school building if not repurposed by Town of Mint Hill
86 McAlpine: Onsite replacement
88 Clear Creek: Onsite replacement
98 Elizabeth Lane: 10 CR addition and comprehensive renovation
112 Hawk Ridge: 10 CR addition and comprehensive renovation
123 New MS #3: 10 To be co-located at Olde Providence