Parents, students plead to save Oakhurst Elementary

Parents, students plead to save Oakhurst Elementary

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by BETH SHAYNE / NewsChannel 36
E-mail Beth: BShayne@WCNC.com

WCNC.com

Posted on October 21, 2010 at 7:21 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 21 at 7:25 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A passionate crowd of parents, students and staff pleaded with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools board members Wednesday night to save Oakhurst Elementary in east Charlotte from closure.

District staff has suggested CMS close the Paideia magnet program at Oakhurst and move the Morgan School, a program for children with special behavioral needs, into the vacant building.

The fight is a telling example of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district's struggle to balancing funding between magnet programs and neighborhood schools in a tough budget climate.

Many parents Tuesday were adamant that their children are receiving a far better education at Oakhurst Elementary than they would in their home schools.

"We were named a 'School of Excellence,'" one parent said. "Why are you messing with that?"

But CMS may be looking for more from its magnet programs. Because costs associated with magnets are higher, the school board asked staff to identify programs that aren't achieving academic excellence above the average CMS schools.

"I understand what you are saying, that you feel like your kids are getting a good education at Oakhurst, but that's not the bar that the guiding principles have set," said Mike Raible, CMS director of planning and project management.

The meeting -- the fourth of six in a series of community forums -- focused on a long list of east Charlotte schools, but nearly all the participants Tuesday came to speak about Oakhurst.

At points, the crowd chanted, "Save our school! Save our school!"

Kindergartner Timi Moore got a huge round of applause when she took the microphone and said, "I want to say that I really want this school to be open because I really, really, really love it."

Many parents talked about the racial, cultural and socioeconomic mix of students at Oakhurst.

"CMS is claiming that that's what they want and that they value diversity, but here is the ideal place and it's on the chopping block. It doesn't make any sense," one mother said.

Much of the debate over school closures at CMS has focused on race. After the NAACP president was arrested Oct. 12, refusing to leave another controversial meeting, the organization pledged to fight the district's move toward neighborhood schools, calling it "racist."

There were no arrests and no outbursts at the Wednesday night meeting. The next meeting is Thursday at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center.

The board will vote on the changes to schools Nov. 9.

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