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CMS survey data shows preference for “neighborhood schools”

Preliminary results from a survey conducted by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools show parents want the Board of Education to prioritize neighborhood schools as they review student assignment boundaries this spring.

The results come as the district begins to craft specifics of a new student assignment plan amid community tension about the issue. CMS will re-draw the lines that determine where students attend school, and the school board has said this review could be an opportunity to break up high concentrations of poverty.

Of the 27,453 people who responded to the survey, 86 percent said schools that are close to home are very or extremely important. That’s compared to 20 percent who ranked racial or economic diversity that high.

When survey respondents were asked to pick the “single most important” factor, schools close to home was the most popular response, and far surpassed issues of diversity. Of those who participated in the survey, 46 percent said neighborhood schools were the most important, compared to three percent for racial diversity and one percent for economic diversity.

Superintendent Ann Clark said this survey is “one data point” in the student assignment review process. It’s also one that comes with a caveat: the results aren’t a random sampling.

The survey was completed by members of the community who wished to do so, meaning those who responded likely had set opinions about the issue. It was also possible to complete the survey more than once, meaning passionate supporters could participate multiple times. Survey administrators said these two factors are important to keep in mind when considering the results.

Responses to the survey were inconsistent, geographically.

District 6, a suburban South Charlotte district home to some of the most vocal support for neighborhood schools, had the most responses to the survey with 12,667. District 3, a less affluent area which stretches from the urban core to the east, has 4,787.

None of this invalidates the results, survey administrators said, but they are important factors for the school board to consider when interpreting the data.

Of the people who responded to the survey who identified as CMS parents, two-thirds said they believe their child already attends a school that is racially and/or economically diverse. And 82 percent said they would not be “OK with a longer bus ride” if it meant their child could attend an even more diverse campus.

School board members said they wanted to consider the survey results in detail as CMS moves into the hard work of crafting a specific student assignment map between now and mid-May.

Adam Rhew

Adam Rhew attended Beverly Woods Elementary, Carmel Middle, and South Mecklenburg High schools, all part of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. He earned a journalism and political science degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. He is a contributor to Southern Living, Charlotte magazine, and SBNation Longform, among other publications. Previously, Adam was an award-winning television and radio news reporter, with stops at stations in Chapel Hill, N.C., Charlottesville and Richmond, Va., and Charlotte, N.C.