CMS makes plans for empty schools


by Ann Doss Helms / The Charlotte Observer

Posted on November 9, 2011 at 7:28 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Empty public schools are about to become private schools and administrative offices, under plans going to the school board tonight.

The board will vote on leasing five empty schools -- Wilson, Davidson IB, Amay James, Starmount and Tryon Hills -- to private education groups. They will also vote on contracts to design renovations at Spaugh, Smith, Oakhurst and the Berry library as offices for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools staff.

Also tonight, the board will vote on a motion to delay turning First Ward Elementary, a creative arts magnet, into a year-round school. Last year members voted to make that change in 2012-13; tonight's motion calls for waiting until 2013-14 to allow more planning.

The changes are all part of the aftermath of a school shakeup approved last fall, as then-Superintendent Peter Gorman and the board braced for budget cuts and tried to improve academic performance. Several schools were closed or consolidated this year.

The lease plans are:

Wilson Middle at 7020 Tuckaseegee Road will be leased to StudentFirst Academy (, a private school.

Davidson IB Middle at 251 South St. in Davidson will be leased to Lake Norman Christian School (, a private school.

Amay James Pre-K at 2414 Lester St. will be leased to Brookstone Schools of Mecklenburg County (, a private-school group.

Starmount School at 1600 Brookdale Ave. and Tryon School at 2600 Grimes St., both former pre-K centers, will be leased to Bethlehem Center of Charlotte (, a nonprofit that provides education services to low-income families.

The leases will bring in a combined $646,020 to CMS and are designed to benefit the surrounding neighborhoods by avoiding empty buildings and continuing with educational uses.

The design contracts on other vacated schools will move CMS a step closer to occupying those buildings this winter and spring. Associate Superintendent Guy Chamberlain said the renovations will be minor, such as installing work stations and appropriate wiring.