DAVIDSON – Now that students have started their summer break, the transformation of a 25-year-old piece of local education tradition will begin. Before the end of June, site work and early phase construction is expected to start as part of a 13-month project to create a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools K-8 facility on the Davidson Elementary School (DES) campus.
The total project, expected to be finished and ready to open by the start of the 2019-20 school year, will add a three-story, 36,000-square-foot, 22-classroom building and an athletic field on the grounds of the school that has served elementary students in northern-most Mecklenburg County since 1993.
Dana Jarrett has been the principal at DES for the last six years and has played an active role in planning and preparing for the construction set to begin this summer and continue throughout the 2018-19 school year. He said information about the planned project has been regularly shared with DES parents, students and faculty and now, with initial site work on the horizon – even though the next 12 months will be challenging – there's a noticeable feeling of anticipation about the changes.
“I think everyone, the kids, the teachers and most of the parents, are excited,” Jarrett said. “We've had community meetings and kept everyone informed about what is planned. And now that things are getting ready to start, I think everyone is eager to see how it turns out.”
Phases of development
Jarrett said the first step will be clearing property on the south side of the school, including removal of most of the mobile units. That will be happening while Charlotte Water works on a utility line upgrade along South Street in front of the school and the town tackles a grant-funded creek restoration project behind the school.
“There will be parts of the summer that the whole area will look something like a war zone,” Jarrett said.
But the goal will remain to establish a work area clearly separated from the existing school. That will be vital, he said, so DES can operate smoothly next year as a K-5 facility while construction continues.
He said much of the preliminary efforts have been aimed at logistics and planning designed to help construction progress efficiently and on schedule.
“There's a lot to do,” Jarrett said, “but by December, I expect to see the skeleton of the new building in place.”
Looking further ahead
If all projects proceed as planned, DES students who complete the fourth grade this year will become the first students, as sixth-graders, to attend class in the new building in August 2019. The expanded school will add a class each year and eventually house sixth- through eighth-grade classes. One DES class, this year's fifth-graders, will miss the transition and attend Bailey Middle School starting next fall.
“That was an issue for some parents and students,” Jarrett said, “but with something like this, somebody was going to be in that skip year. And Bailey is a great school, and plenty of parents and students were OK with this because Bailey was what they had planned for all along.”
Jarrett said DES currently has about 700 K-5 students and, by the 2021-22 school year when the school is a fully functioning K-8 facility, he expects enrollment to be in the 1,050-1,100 range. Jarrett said DES currently has about 50 teachers and would add up to 24 teaching positions by the time K-8 classes are offered.
Jarrett said kindergarteners through fifth-graders and sixth- through eighth-graders will attend class in separate facilities but will share the school's cafeteria and gymnasium. And he added that early ideas about ways to create interaction opportunities for students are already being evaluated.
“I think we'll find some ways for the older students to fill some campus leadership roles and be mentors for the younger students,” he said. “We don't know how everything will work out, but overall I think this will be a good thing. And a few years from now when our eighth-graders are leaving, I can tell you our kids will be ready for Hough.”