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2007 School Bond Could Fund Two Elementary Schools in Steele Creek

(December 28, 2006) Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools expects to add 50,000 students in the next decade. To address this growing enrollment, facilities staff have drafted a proposal that would build 63 new schools in the next 10 years. The plan would add 3,700 classrooms in 11 high, 13 middle, and 39 elementary schools. The total cost for 338 construction and renovation projects in the plan is estimated to be $2.4 billion.

The plan ranks the 338 projects based on a priority formula that incorporates such factors as overcrowding, health and safety, and legal mandates, CMS staff have proposed that the first 40 projects on the list be funded by a bond issue expected to be considered by voters in November 2007 . The projects in Steele Creek on the top 40 list are:

 8  -  New Elementary School at Dixie River Road (Berewick) -  $16,500,000
12 -  Roofing at Kennedy Middle School - $368,500
24 -  New elementary school in York Road/Red Fez area - $16,500,000
25 -  Roofing at Olympic - $350,000
28 -  Track at Olympic - $350,000

The new elementary school in the Berewick community is badly needed to relieve Steele Creek Elementary School. The next priority for new construction is a new elementary school adjacent to Palisades in the Red Fez Club Road area. The new Winget park Elementary School opened last fall and helped relieve Lake Wylie Elementary, but due to booming population in Steele Creek, trailers already are planned at the new school,

Projects just missing the top 40 are:

45 -  Electrical work at Olympic ' $562,143
53 -  Stadium at Olympic - $5,025,000
93 - Paving/site work at Steele Creek Elementary - $$350,000

Other schools planned for future bond issues, with their priority rankings, are:

103 - New elementary school on Hamilton Road at Smith Road - $16,500,000
147 - New high school in the Palisades area - $56,000,000
165 - New middle school in the Palisades area - $28,110,645

CMS has been holding a series of community forums to gather input from citizens on the Ten-Year Plan. At the meeting on December 21 at Olympic High School, area residents expressed concern about facilities at Olympic. Of special concern was the condition of the school's track, football stadium, and other athletic facilities.

A study published in 2004 found that many athletic facilities at Olympic were either obsolete or missing altogether. "The scope of needed improvements at Olympic High School is significant," the report said. The estimated cost to bring facilities up to standard was $5.4 million.

Improvements to Olympic athletic facilities would have been funded by the bond issue that failed in 2005, but these are not on the top 40 list slated for the 2007 bond issue. CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman has decided to propose that 80% of capital spending be for new construction and 20% for renovations. Because of the emphasis change favoring new construction, most renovations and improvements at Olympic have fallen off the list.

As many of the attendees on December 21 expressed, Olympic High School is showing its age and lacks facilities that most other high schools in Mecklenburg County have. Concern is that Olympic will continue to deteriorate and be overshadowed by the new high school to be built in a few years in the Palisades area. The hope is that facilities at Olympic are improved to the point that it will remain as attractive to prospective students as the new high school. It is not desirable to have Lower Steele Creek flourish with new schools while Upper Steele Creek languishes.

According to the presentation, 41% of CMS schools are over 30 years old, and renovations generally are needed as schools reach that age. Only 3% of schools are between 20 and 30 years old, so once the oldest schools are taken care of, fewer renovations will be needed in the system for a while.

The Board of Education will review the preliminary plan on January 23, and a draft report will be available for public comment at a February School Board meeting. Staff will present a final bond proposal for School Board approval in March.

The remaining community forums for 10-year construction plan are as follows:

     January 4 at Myers Park High School Auditorium
     January 11 at North Mecklenburg High School Auditorium

All meetings begin at 6 p.m.

In September Superintendent Gorman encouraged supporters of Steele Creek schools to be proactive and voice their opinions at meetings so that our community will be known. Steele Creek may be unique in the county in that many residents show support for the overall good of the community rather than just for their immediate neighborhoods.

All Steele Creek residents who are concerned about area schools should plan to attend one of the remaining meetings and speak out for Olympic High School and other Steele Creek schools. Or direct comments to Mike Raible of the CMS Facilities Planning staff at m.raible@cms.k12.nc.us or 980-343-6856.

Read more about the meeting in the Lake Wylie Pilot: Steele Creek feels passed over by CMS (1/2/07)

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