Modeled after a charter, this $32 million Charlotte school sets trends for 2017

AUGUST 24, 2017 11:41 AM


When about 360 students walk into Renaissance West STEAM Academy Monday morning, they’ll see the future of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The $32 million building, which will eventually house up to 1,000 preK-8 students at the site of the demolished Boulevard Homes housing project, could serve as a demonstration of what to look for in the school year that begins Monday:

CMS is part of a public-private team that has worked together on a vision – and pooled money to provide extras for students and families.

A successful charter school serves as the model for Renaissance West, exactly the kind of innovation spillover that school choice advocates celebrate. The new CMS superintendent, Clayton Wilcox, touts partnerships and creativity as the key to competing in the public education market.

The new school is the district’s latest effort to provide top-flight education to the black, Hispanic and low-income students who traditionally trail their more advantaged peers. Renaissance West will serve them in their neighborhood, despite its high concentration of poverty, rather than assigning them to more diverse schools.

And the building is designed for high-tech, project-based learning, where students will find a lab with robotics kits, arts classrooms full of natural light and furniture that can be moved and written on as groups brainstorm. CMS hopes to persuade voters to approve $922 million in bonds Nov. 7 to build similar new schools and upgrade old ones across Mecklenburg County.

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