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CMS Pitch Would Close 13 Magnet Programs

June 21, 2008

By Ann Doss Helms, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.

Jun. 21–Thirteen schools would lose magnet programs.

Collinswood and Oaklawn elementaries would become K-8 Spanish-language schools.

International Baccalaureate and math/science programs would become tougher to get into, a move that could strengthen schools that house them but push more struggling students back to neighborhood schools.

Those are among the proposals Superintendent Peter Gorman will pitch to the school board Tuesday as the board gets serious about revamping its slate of specialized academic programs.

Gorman sent his plan to board members Friday evening. It wasn’t clear how much it would scale back the cost of busing students across sprawling Mecklenburg County, an issue that is gaining urgency as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools faces a tight budget and soaring fuel costs.

The plan, which would eliminate magnets serving almost 2,100 students next year, is bound to be controversial. Next year’s assignments wouldn’t be affected; changes would take effect in 2009-10 or later.

And Gorman is leaving some tough issues for the board to grapple with. Among the issues he’s putting on the table without making a proposal for:

Should Sedgefield Middle become the district’s first Montessori middle school?

What should CMS do about low enrollment in some of its magnets for gifted students?

What does it mean that average test scores for low-income students in magnets are indistinguishable from those of low-income students in neighborhood schools?

The board won’t vote on changes Tuesday. Officials have scheduled a series of magnet discussions around the county in July and early August, designed to give parents and students a chance to speak before a vote.

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