Parents: Leave us alone for a year
HUNTERSVILLE – Torrence Creek will likely be taken off the list of schools up for boundary changes in the 2011-12 school year, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Board Member Rhonda Lennon said.
“We received an overwhelming response from parents,” she said. They want the school’s boundaries to be left alone in the upcoming school year.
The school made the system’s list of those in need of changes because it operates well above its capacity, with about 410 students more than it should. The school uses 23 mobile units to house the overflow.
After the list was released three weeks ago, parents, staff and faculty members turned to Lennon and board leadership to reconsider the board’s position until a more serious resolution could be discovered.
“If they’re not going to make an impacting change, where they build a new building and solve overcrowding, then leave us alone,” said Torrence Creek parent and chair of the school’s PTA for exceptional children Angela Lucas.
School leaders have worked to accommodate the large student population, like staggering meeting schedules and volunteering to monitor the cafeteria. And, at least according to state test scores, the student learning hasn’t been affected, Lucas said.
“Our kids are getting a great education,” Lucas said, and credited the school principal, faculty and parent volunteers with the school’s success.
But overcrowding is an issue everyone agrees needs to be addressed – just not now.
Being removed from CMS’ list can be done. Six schools were removed Monday, Oct. 4, from the list of 78 facing a wide range of changes during a school board work session after parents raised concerns.
Lennon was unable to attend Monday’s work session, and the board decided not to vote on removing Torrence Creek from the list without its representative in attendance.
Lennon wants the school off the list because there isn’t enough time to fully study redrawing its boundary. If the school board did leave Torrence Creek on the list; it would only have about six weeks to determine new lines before casting the final vote on Nov. 9.
Lennon wants to leave the school as-is through the 2011-12 school year. She wants to meet with parents this winter to discuss any decisions that would be made next summer.
“That will give parents a full year,” Lennon said. “There’s too much community involvement needed to make the decision in six weeks,” she said. By next summer the board will also know whether or not the county will sell any of its bonds, to fund construction on relief schools like Stumptown Road elementary school, which would take some of Torrence Creek’s students.
The school’s boundaries were last drawn a little over a year ago, when the Stumptown school was on the horizon. Due to budget cuts, work on that school won’t happen next year and is likely several years away.
Even if the school board votes to table redrawing Torrence Creek’s boundaries this year, school leaders still need to find a solution to handle the overflow, school Planning Specialist Dennis LaCaria said. While the classrooms may function fine, it puts a lot of demand and scheduling strain on the school’s common areas, like the gym, cafeteria and media center, he said.
Lucas is concerned that a boundary change would do more harm than good. “If we go beneath 1,200 students we will lose so many resources that it wouldn’t be beneficial to do a boundary change,” she said, like fewer parent volunteers, teacher assistants and other staff.
“Sometimes when you’re given less with which to do more, you can be very creative,” Lucas said. “You just have to find new ways and avenues to make it work.”