Torrence Creek Elementary School Overcrowding

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Torrence Creek Elementary School families have been waiting for relief since the school opened in 2005 with an eight classroom modular unit already added to the property. When Mecklenburg County asked to hear from the voters in 2007 on the addition of a School Bonds referendum, TCE families, along with many others from the Lake Norman area, overwhelmingly agreed with this referendum and the 2007 School Bonds were passed.

Fast forward several years and TCE’s student population is creeping ever closer to 1400 and the school has more students in trailers than in the physical building. CMS has asked the parents and the staff of TCE to be patient for years and now that the county is planning to release the bond money a shuffling of priorities has occurred. The county has shifted CMS’s priorities and Torrence Creek Elementary School has gone from being in the Top 5 Greatest Needs Category to 15th on Mecklenburg County’s CMS prioritized list and a miserable 26th on Mecklenburg County’s list overall.
[Edited to clarify priority lists and positions. Thank you Rhonda Lennon]

When voting ‘Yes’ to the 2007 School Bonds referendum, voters were in essence saying, “Yes, please spend our tax dollars on new school construction” in order to take care of the needs of our community, not to see those funds redirected to other projects and then be told “Sorry, you don’t meet our new criteria in order to receive funding.”

How did this happen? Who dropped the ball? While Mecklenburg County staff and CMS point fingers at each other, TCE staff, students and parents are suffering the burden of overcrowding and feeling the sting of being placed on the back burner yet again.

Has the county or CMS taken into account the added workload that the staff of TCE has endured for the last six years? With the many recent cuts to the administrative staffs at all CMS schools has anyone stopped to think about how these cuts have affected TCE’s administrative staff? After being reduced in size, they now have twice the workload of other schools in the area due to the sheer size of the student population. They do more with far less than most elementary schools and I am sure it is taking a toll on each member of the staff and unfortunately the students as well.

What about safety concerns? Students are forced into an overcrowded building during unsafe conditions including hazardous walkways during ice or snow storms, tornado warnings, and lockdowns. And in the case of fire? Where would the students go? To the ball fields? Most of the ball fields are now covered with modular units and trailers! I’m not sure 1400 students could fit out there in a safe and orderly manner now.

Thanks to the efforts of TCE staff, students and parents, the school works like a well oiled machine which is probably why it has been repeatedly placed on the back burner. If TCE were a school that had disciplinary issues or poor test scores I bet the overcrowding issue would have been addressed already. But since TCE is a school of excellence with high growth it seems as if they are being told, “You’ll be fine for another year” and placed on the back burner again and again.

An elementary school should never be allowed to grow to the size to which Torrence Creek has been allowed to balloon. TCE can not hold school functions for the entire student body at the school unless it is split into at least two days. Why? There is not a space in the building that can hold all of the staff and the students nor is there adequate parking to accommodate school functions involving the student’s families. Larger events must be spread out over several days or weeks in order to accommodate staff, students, and families. I credit past school administrators and PTA leaders for working together very closely to provide families with a semblance of a small school feel, but they can only do so much.

Torrence Creek families deserve to have their concerns and the overcrowding issue addressed! The only way to adequately address this issue is to build the proposed relief school on Stumptown Road. The ball is in the court of the County Staff, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), and the CMS Board of Education (BOE). I dare say that if our Huntersville families are put to the side yet again it will not bode well for these organizations in future election cycles nor bond referendums.

The BOCC and CMS BOE must come together and find a way to resolve this issue. If only they would take the time to come and see, with their own eyes, the burden that this overcrowding is causing.

I believe, that by working together as a community, we can make a difference in the lives of our youngest citizens. I encourage every citizen in Huntersville to contact each County Commissioner, the County Manager, the County Finance Director, and each member of the Board of Education to express their concerns and their desire for our bond monies to be spent as we voted. Let them hear from you!

Below you will find information and links that you may use to contact the members of the organizations that can provide the much needed relief TCE desperately needs.

Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education

Mecklenburg County Manager’s Office
Harry Jones, Mecklenburg County Manager
[email protected]
704-336-2472

Mecklenburg County Finance Department
Dena Diorio, Finance Director of Mecklenburg County
[email protected]
704-336-2228

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about this urgent need. I urge you to get informed and get involved. By working together we can make a difference for the families of Torrence Creek Elementary School and the Town of Huntersville.