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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District could be poised to form five K-8 programs on Charlotte's west side as part of the cost-cutting proposal the school board will vote on next month.

Those schools were the topic of the fifth in the six-part series of forums on the proposal at West Mecklenburg High School Wednesday night.

CMS staff has suggested that the district could close Bishop Spaugh and Wilson Middle Schools and move those students in K-8 programs in the buildings currently home to Berryhill, Thomasboro, Reid Park, Westerly Hills and Ashley Park Elementary. The pre-K program at Amay James would also close.

The questions parents and staff of the schools have are big ones on the topics of money, academic growth, safety and race.

Can you speak to what's going to happen to the elective program? one Wilson Middle School teacher asked.

Several parents expressed concerns about having children ages 4 through 14 on a single school bus or in a single building.

I think it's inappropriate and it's not the right environment for 4-year-olds, one mother said.

The question of equality was also a big one at Wednesday's meeting. West Mecklenburg County would see more closures under the current proposal than other parts of the CMS district, and many parents and teachers said they feel that failing schools aren't being given a chance to improve.

I feel that the board is trying to balance its budget on the backs of minority children, one mother said. This isn t bold. This is putting peoples backs up against the wall.

If K-8 is good for all of us, Chairperson Davis, then it should be good for all the schools, a grandmother said publicly.

Several CMS staffers privately expressed surprise that the meeting wasn't better attended. A meeting Oct. 12 about another set of schools from west Charlotte ended in two arrests after 19 speakers were turned away. NAACP president Rev. Kojo Nantambu has since called the district's proposal racist.

That analysis has given at least two board members pause, including Dr. Joyce Waddell, who told NewsChannel 36 Thursday, I do have a lot of concerns. I'm listening to community people. I'm listening to my constituents, and I will follow what they want me to do. If you hear something enough, you at least have to give it a serious look.

One mother spoke passionately in support of the K-8 idea, reminding parents that failing schools need new ideas. If this is the solution, give it a chance because I'm tired of sending my son across the railroad tracks to school.

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