Apr 13, 2017 - News

Where do kids in this apartment complex go to school? Depends on the building

School boundary lines in Charlotte don’t make a lot of sense.

Too often, the lines are rigged to keep affluent kids together in ways that defy logic.

[Agenda story: The most gerrymandered school districts in Charlotte]

But other times, they split what many normal people would consider natural boundaries.

  • Ideal Way constitutes the line between Sedgefield and Dilworth elementary schools, so even numbered houses go one way and odd numbered houses the other.
  • The Providence and East Meck high boundary carves just two houses out of the Alexander Hall neighborhood.
  • Similarly, 86 homes in the Sherwood Forest neighborhood go to East Meck, with the remaining 468 in the neighborhood going to Myers Park High.

These decisions can have massive impacts on property values. Each year, parents petition the school board for their kids to be sent to school with their neighbors, or to a school closer to home, or simply to a school they like better.

myers-park-high

But there is one example that’s the most dramatic that I have come across.

The Aurora Apartments are composed of 276 units at the confluence of Plaza Midwood and Elizabeth. The property abuts signs for the Commonwealth neighborhood, so we’ll call it that.

The area is rapidly gentrifying, with homes regularly going for $500,000 or more. These apartments, however, are run by a company that manages workforce apartments. Rent runs from $800 for a studio to $1,700 for a three-bedroom townhome.

The place is crawling with kids and families.

The kids who play together on this playground go to different schools.

Both the elementary and high school boundaries go right through the middle of Aurora Apartments. The buildings on the east side of the community go to Oakhurst STEAM Academy and Myers Park High, the west and south go to Merry Oaks Elementary and Garinger High.

Here are the elementary maps.

Here are the high school maps.

Why does this matter to parents? The vastly different perceptions of the schools.

Both Merry Oaks and Garinger High are among Charlotte’s most segregated by race and income. Merry Oaks is two-thirds Hispanic, with only 15 white children in a population of nearly 700.

Garinger has large black and Hispanic populations, with only 60 white students in a school of about 2,000. Nearly every student at both schools are in the city’s lowest socioeconomic strata.

Both Oakhurst STEAM and Myers Park High are much more diverse, with a mix of ethnic backgrounds and both affluent and low-income children — a mix that education experts say is much healthier.

Garinger received a D in the latest school letter grades. Myers Park a B. It’s worth pointing out that both Merry Oaks and Oakhurst STEAM got Cs.

That leaves frustrated parents and people waiting for apartments on the “right” side of the street.

Leasing agents told me prospective tenants ask about the boundary lines all the time. Some even wait until a unit comes open on the Oakhurst/Myers Park side of the property before signing on the dotted line.

Would it make sense to have this apartment community go one way or other? Probably.

I can’t find any record of residents or the apartment owners petitioning the school board for a change. Perhaps they’re afraid of the whole community being moved to the less-affluent schools.

CMS student placement director Scott McCully did not respond to a request for comment.

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