Cover Story: Drawing school boundaries

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is having to re-draw boundaries to even out enrollment.  Students would be moved to other schools, leaving parents very un-easy.  In our Cover Story, PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson talks to the experts, who say even if your kid doesn't go to C-M-S, re-zoning could happen in your city.

It's happening all over our growing region.. school districts having to redraw school boundaries to achieve a balanced enrollment.

And it's happening all over the country.

No way to cut it-- student reassignment is unpopular.. and no matter how you do it-- usually some group is going to be dissatisfied with the results.

Boundaries have to change when new schools are added to the mix or enrollment between schools gets out of whack.

Parents in Mint Hill got upset this summer.

With signs in hand they boarded buses..

And organized protests at City Hall.

"CMS misled us."

Trying to get the CMS School Board to send all of Mint Hill's kids to the new Mint Hill High School under construction.

Not all got their way.. and they're certainly not the first to be upset.

As Charlotte-Mecklenburg enrollment's grown and the district's added schools.. school boundaries have constantly been redrawn.

But now a dispute between two of the district's academic icons.. East Mecklenburg and Myers Park High.. and the elementary and middle schools that feed them.

"I don't think it's an "us" versus "them." I really don't."

Lou Trosch is a district court judge and a parent of an East Meck student.

He and others have been meeting.. hoping to convince the district preserve the tradition of both schools.

"Two schools that are vital to this community East Mecklenburg and Myers Park need to remain strong schools for this community's school system to remain strong," says Trosch.

When the school board re-drew the boundaries for the new Mint Hill High.. it took away some of the students from East Meck.. leaving it with 14-hundred students next year..

While, Myers Park next door bursts at the seams.. with 3-thousand students.

The district is considering moving some of the students who would normally to go Myers Park to East Meck.. to achieve parity.. and that's got feathers ruffled.

"It is almost always frought with controversy."

Dr. Jim Lyons professor at UNC Charlotte has worked in education for nearly four decades.

He says student reassignment is common in big urban districts all over the country.. and no one's figured out the answer.

What is clear-- it makes no sense having an overcrowded school next to another under capacity.

In making the shuffle.. school boards will try to achieve balance in school poverty levels and performance.. which can add to some parents angst.

One thing Dr. Lyons says is certain.  "Kids are very resilient. They frequently will adjust to whatever new situation they find themselves in.. frequently if some of their past classmates school mates are going with them."

He says people fall passionately in love with their schools.. any attempt at change is going to get people riled up.

He says the school board is to look at the larger picture.. what's best for the whole district not just one group.

But those who get rezoned fear about the home's property value going down if it's moved from a certain district.

So you're going to wind up with some unhappy.. what can the board do?

The experts say.. bring all the sides in.. make sure their position is heard.. and throughout the process keep the community educated.