Several CMS Schools in Desperate Need

CHARLOTTE, NC — Leaking roofs. Flooded classrooms. Plumbing problems. Several CMS schools are in dire need.

The district has requested $798 million in funding to tackle its highest need projects. Tonight, I’m taking you on campus at CMS schools slated for replacement.

“Everything has a purpose,” says Collinswood Language Academy Principal Jennifer Pearsall, as she leads us through a hallway. “Everything has its place. But we don’t have anywhere to put these chairs. This is our uniform closet, back here.”

Lots of students. Not nearly enough space.

Collinswood Language Academy is one of five schools, built in the 1950’s, that CMS wants to replace.

The district also wants to build 10 new schools, and renovate or add on to 13 others, as part of a $798 million proposed bond package.

“Toilets are backed up,” says Leonard Richardson, head custodian at the school. “Sinks are stopped up. We call the plumbers out. They try to do their best, but they clog back up. Because we’re dealing with some old stuff here.”

Collinswood was built in 1959. The K-8th is 87% over capacity, putting hundreds of students in temporary trailers, some of which have been on campus since the 1960’s.

“The problem here is that every time it rains, it leaks,” says Pearsall. “Every time it rains, this mobile unit floods, and the teacher has to relocate for instruction.”

The school’s water pressure is too low. The maintenance is constant.

It takes a toll on the faculty and staff. It impacts the students.

“We’re limited with what we can do,” says Pearsall. “Our space limits us, in terms of the amount of time that we’re providing for our special area classes. The amount of time we’re providing for core instruction.”

“Some of these trailers are decades old,” says Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education Vice-Chair Elyse Dashew. “So they’re supposed to be a temporary solution, that we keep on falling back on, because we’re not getting to the root cause of building new buildings.”

“This is where all the internet cords are carried, because we have nowhere to put them in the ceiling,” says Lansdowne Elementary Principal Penni Beth Crisp.

Lansdowne Elementary is another school the bond would replace. Another 1950’s relic.

The cafeteria is loud, and hot, even with the lights out and the blinds drawn. The school’s computer server room is also the only conference room on campus. There are no teacher work rooms.

“The roof leaks when it rains,” says Crisp. “It’s AC on and off. It doesn’t matter. They have to switch us over manually, of course, because we are an older school. And so when it comes on, it doesn’t always work. When the power trips, a lot of times they have to come redo the boiler.”

“There’s only so much that you can do to a building that is continually showing it’s age year after year,” says Lansdowne PTO President Theresa Matheny, who has two children at the school.

“Ultimately, these sort of stop gap, just trying to go along to get along costs us, our tax payers, more,” says Dashew.

78% of CMS schools are at or over capacity. 78 schools were built more than 50 years ago.

There are 20,000 students currently in class in 1,100 trailers across the district.

The CMS Board of Education will vote on the bond package this month, and hopes county commissioners will put in on the ballot in November.