MATTHEWS – It’s lottery season in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, with the first school lottery wrapping up earlier this week.
But with a second lottery still to come, juniors and seniors in south Mecklenburg will have the opportunity to be the first official students to attend the new CMS Levine Middle College High School, which will be located at Central Piedmont Community College’s Levine Campus in Matthews.
“We are in the recruiting process right now,” Joseph Burch, currently the principal of the Cato Middle College in northeast Charlotte, said. “This process will be going on throughout the spring… This program gives students a jump start on college, and financially, it’s a great benefit for our parents.”
It will be the second middle college campus for CMS. The program started in 2007 at the CPCC Cato Campus to give high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to have dual enrollment in high school and college. The students take both high school and college courses daily and on average graduate with about 30 credit hours toward a college degree, Burch said. The Cato Campus currently is at full capacity, with 100 juniors and 100 seniors, in addition to 30 students who this semester moved their classes to a CPCC classroom at the Levine Campus. CMS will soon build a 10-classroom modular unit on the Levine Campus in preparation for 200 middle college high school students this fall, with long-term goals of building a more permanent facility on CPCC grounds.
But Burch said the program hasn’t always been so successful. Coming into the principal seat three years ago, he said the Cato Campus was one of the best-kept secrets in Mecklenburg County. Open to public school, previously private school or home-school students throughout the county, Burch said the Cato Middle College wasn’t being advertised like it needed to be, especially since the school wasn’t meeting the 200-student capacity.
“When I came in three years ago, it was my charge to grow the program and bring it up to capacity,” Burch said. “We had a waiting list for the first time this school year.”
Which is great timing, Burch added, with the soon-to-open Levine Campus already underway and plans for a middle college at the Harper Campus for the 2015-16 school year. The middle college program is offered tuition-free, with no cost for textbooks, and CMS also will offer students with transportation needs a city bus pass. The schools’ calendars are different than a typical CMS high school schedule, with longer hours, different start dates and spring breaks and earlier graduation schedules. The college credits are transferable to all North Carolina public universities, Burch said.
“It’s a different and unique kind of program that requires a high level of maturity – it’s not for everybody,” Burch said. “It’s all about making the best decision individually for each student on the route they take.”
The middle college program also will give incoming juniors the option of a 13th grade starting next year, giving students an additional year in high school to complete their associate degree or earn a certification in a career study track such as construction, heating and air conditioning or welding, Burch said. Students participating in the middle college take high school core classes, such as English, science, math and social studies, and typically take general education college courses.
Burch said the program has proved to be successful for students who have attended Cato, better preparing them for life after high school, whether college or career bound. The students come out of the program with an advantage, he said, adding students don’t have to be at the top of their classes to succeed in middle college – they just have to have a good work ethic.
Burch currently is helping implement programming at the new Levine Campus, but it’s still unclear whether he will remain the principal at Cato or move on to Levine to manage the new school.
While the first lottery is closed, interested students and parents will have the opportunity to participate in the second lottery, which runs March 10 to June 6. Find more information on the lottery process at the CMS website, www.cms.k12.nc.us.
An open house event will be held for those interested in the Levine Middle College High School on Feb. 19, a Wednesday, at 6 p.m. at the CPCC Levine Campus, 2800 Campus Ridge Road. The meeting will take place in the Levine I Building, room LV3100.