Learning about schools is at the top of most newcomers lists. Families new to the Charlotte area will find a wealth of educational opportunities here, including public, private, parochial and charter schools.
The Charlotte regions public school systems offer solid, broad programs that meet the needs of a wide range of students, from special needs to academically gifted, college prep to technical. North Carolina has traditionally encouraged consolidation of public systems so that many counties have a single school system. While many systems have consolidated, some remain fiercely independent, such as Mooresville Graded School District in southern Iredell County. York County in South Carolina also has four public school systems, each with its own distinct qualities.
The largest public school system in the Carolinas is Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). This system is 22nd-largest in the nation, with over 140,000 students enrolled in 160 schools.
The issue of pupil assignment is a large one in the CMS system. From the early 1970s until spring 2002, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools operated under a federal court desegregation order that placed emphasis on assigning pupils to schools to achieve a balanced racial mix. That court order has now ended and Charlotte-Mecklenburg has a new assignment plan that offers a K-12 feeder system, choice opportunities, stability, guaranteed school assignment and diversity through choice by letting parents decide which school is right for their child. For complete details on the current assignment plan, check the CMS website at www.cms.k12.nc.us.
CMS will continue to provide top-rated educational opportunities such as the Bright Beginnings program. This program offers a literacy-rich curriculum to 4-year-olds who might otherwise start kindergarten already behind other students. The program has proven its worth by preparing students to be on par with or ahead of their peers as they begin elementary school.
CMS features an innovative magnet school program that provides opportunities for students to pursue specific interests in their education. Fourteen magnet programs in 50 schools focus on such subjects as foreign language immersion; communication arts; math, science and technology; visual and performing arts; and accelerated learning.
The CMS system is rightly proud of its steadily improving performance in such areas as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and end-of-grade tests.
CMS participates in the states ABCs of Public Education Accountability Program, which establishes standards for performance and improvement for every public school and then assesses the school using results on end-of-grade tests. The program ensures that schools are meeting the educational standards set up by the state and rewards schools that exceed their goals. Check the North Carolina Department of Public Instructions Web site at www.ncpublicschools.org for details on the ABCs at the schools you're considering.
A common theme among all Charlotte-region schools is growth. The tremendous increase in population is causing a surge in school enrollment, often putting classroom space, money and resources at a premium. Throughout this area, public and private schools are studying projections for growth and considering options to meet the demand for school services. As you check out the schools you're considering, you'll certainly see plenty of new construction and expansion projects under way, as well as plenty of mobile classrooms. A new elementary school, Flat Branch, opened for the 2007-2008 school year along with two specialty schools. Eight Plus is designed to help struggling eighth-graders transition into high school, and Cato Middle College is for high school students who wish to accelerate their academic instruction. CMS is also making major administrative changes under a new plan that divides the area into six sub-districts.
Charter schools are another education option in the Charlotte region. Charter schools, which originated in Minnesota in the early 1990s, are independently operated public schools designed to serve as laboratories for innovation in education. Created and run by parents, teachers and/or community leaders, charter schools receive the same per-pupil funding as other public schools. However, they can spend the money and operate with fewer restrictions and government rules.
The N.C. Board of Education must approve charter schools before they can begin operation. In addition, these schools must undergo periodic reviews to determine that theyre meeting regulations and standards. There are 11 charter schools in Mecklenburg County, two in Gaston County, four in Iredell County, one in Union County, one in York County and one in Cabarrus County.
The Charlotte region also has a wealth of independent secular and religious private schools. Some large, well-established schools have huge campuses; others are small and new. There's even a parochial school system, Mecklenburg Area Catholic Schools, which encompasses the county's eight parochial schools (but not the Catholic schools in Gastonia and Rock Hill).
You'll find a range of educational offerings, including innovative programs, special classes for students with learning disabilities, religious training and character-building. Because each private school has its own distinct philosophy and approach to learning, you'll want to research schools, talk to parents and take a tour.
T.ORTEGA GAINES/CHARLOTTE OBSERVER
|Public School Entrance Requirements
A child entering kindergarten must be
5 years old on or before Oct. 16.
A child entering the first grade must be
6 years old on or before the same date.
A copy of the childs birth certificate and proof of residency must be taken to the school in order to register the child.
The following basic immunizations are required:
5 or more DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus). 3 doses by age seven months and two booster doses, one dose between 12 and 19 months and the second dose on or after the fourth birthday and before enrolling in school (K-1) for the first time. If the fourth dose was administered on or after the fourth birthday, the fifth dose is not required.
3 or more oral polio vaccines. Two doses by age five months, a third dose by 19 months of age and a booster dose on or after the fourth birthday and before enrolling in school (K-1) for the first time. If the third dose was administered on or after the 4th birthday, the 4th dose is not required. Two doses of enhanced-potency inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine (IPV) may be substituted for two doses of OPV.
4 MMR (2 measles, 1 mumps, 1 rubella) for children enrolling in K-1. A child must have two measles vaccines with one dose on or after the first birthday, but before 16 months of age. The second dose must be after the fourth birthday, but before enrolling in school (K-1) for the first time. In addition, a child must have one rubella vaccine and one mumps vaccine occurring on or after the first birthday, but before 16 months of age.
4 HiB (not required after fifth birthday) Three doses of HbOC or two doses of PRP-OMP by seven months old and a final dose of any type on or after the first birthday, but before 16 months old. Children who receive the first dose of HiB on or after their first birthday and before 15 months old are required to have only two doses with one dose being after 15 months of age. Children who receive the first dose of HiB vaccine on or after 15 months old are required to have one dose.
3 Hepatitis B vaccines with one occurring prior to three months old, a second dose by five months old and a third dose by 19 months old. Persons born before July 1, 1994 are not required to receive the hepatitis B vaccine.
A certificate of immunization must include the following:
Name of child and date of birth.
Name of the parent(s) or guardian.
Address of the parent(s) or guardian.
Sex of the child.
Kindergarten students must have a health assessment before entering school.
Transfer students should bring their most recent report card or transfer slip to verify grade.
Beginners days are held each spring at school to help parents prepare children for entry in the fall.
Parent(s)/guardians should contact their childs school for more information.
S.C. law requires that children between ages 5 and 17 enroll in school. Schools operate for 180 days each year.
S.C. law requires that all children to be enrolled in kindergarten and first grade present a birth certificate issued by the state of birth and be 6 years of age by Sept. 1 of the current school year. An exception is made for children who have completed first grade in another state that has a different age requirement. To enter kindergarten, children must be 5 years old on or before Sept. 1.
All children entering S.C. schools for the first time must be immunized prior to enrolling and obtain an S.C. Certificate of Immunization form. Certificates may be obtained from the S.C. Health Department or other sources of medical care.
South Carolina requires the following immunizations: measles, rubella, DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) and polio.