On August 29, West Charlotte High School will welcome about 1,600 students to its new campus — more than 330,000 square feet of classrooms on three levels.
The $105 million project will replace the school’s former buildings, which were almost 70 years old.
As final touches were being put in place, QCity Metro got a tour of the new campus, which district officials say will provide more space and better in-class technology for students and teachers. (Photos by Daija Peeler.)
West Charlotte students are also athletes. A new pool (above) will serve as a practice and meet facility, while the newly waxed floors of the school’s two gymnasiums (below) will host volleyball, wrestling, and basketball.
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The West Charlotte basketball team last year won the 3A state championship, and the school will host a ceremony to raise the banner among the rafters. While the larger of the two gyms features soundproofing panels and extended bleachers to seat more than 900 spectators, the auxiliary gym has no bleachers and a scoreboard donated by the class of ’86.
“As we hoist that championship banner to christen that new gym,” said dean of students Billy Hopkins, “that’s gonna be a good feeling.”
Outside, a new and larger football stadium (below)will host soccer, track and field, and the school’s renowned marching band, which is already at work perfecting their routines.
“The sound they’re bringing is amazing,” Hopkins said. “They take a lot of pride in donning the west Charlotte band uniform and performing and competing.”
A new band classroom (below) includes a few smaller practice rooms, a music library and soundproofing panels as well as a main room for practicing ensemble.
The new auditorium seats about 800 students and has a theatre control box at the rear.
Safety is important. Students entering the building will pass through full-body scanners. Visitors will enter through two locked doors after being buzzed in by a faculty member up front. Hopkins said this is an improvement because the old building was “too open.”
Along the hallways, motivational quotes decorate the walls…“to try to keep scholars motivated and encouraged,” Hopkins said.
The large cafeteria, which looks toward the football stadium, features a wall of glass panels underneath flags representing many of the worlds’ nation. An international baccalaureate school, West Charlotte students will come from and enter careers all over the world.
The kitchen, which will serve about 800 students at once, includes chrome, state-of-the-art ovens, refrigerators and stoves. Eight employees will serve while the remaining wash dishes and cook.
Cafeteria manager Darryl Reid describes the new dining facility as “going from a Ford Pinto to a Rolls Royce.”
“There are tremendous possibilities here,” Reid said. Thirteen employees, plus a few newcomers, will serve, cook and wash dishes. “It’s quite a large production just for one high school,” Reid said.
Up the stairs to the second floor is the ‘omni,’ a multi-use classroom. Connected to the omni is the culinary arts classroom where students learn, prep, cook and serve their own dishes.
On the third floor, the library includes a computer lab and an audio-visual classroom where the student-produced morning announcement broadcast will be shot.
The majority of the school’s books are brand new, and include titles that represent a range of narratives surrounding the world’s diverse identities. Hopkins emphasizes that, as an IB school, West Charlotte students from all backgrounds have an opportunity to request what they’d like to read about and study.
“Diversity is needed in running the world,” Hopkins said.
During the days of public school integration, White students were bussed from all over the city to attend West Charlotte. Student activists were known nationwide as leaders in the integration struggle. They also organized against violence, starting Students Against Violence Everywhere. Hopkins said Boston became a sister city to Charlotte, and the two school districts exchanged students.
“The collaborative efforts to be as one unfolded, and they ended up making it work,” he said.
A collage of archival photos honors the legacy of West Charlotte and its students.
In 1989, Alex Orange, a beloved student athlete at West Charlotte, was killed at a party. Students raised funds to commission a engraved marble bench in his honor.
“His death impacted the whole school…not only the whole school but the community,” said Hopkins.
“You can go anywhere around the country and if someone sees this shirt,” Hopkins pointed to his West Charlotte High School t-shirt, “they’ll yell ‘Dub C,’ and the response is ‘you know.’”
Up the stairs in the cafeteria, on the second floor, there are classrooms for cosmetology and culinary arts. There’s also a career center where guest speakers from all over the country will talk to students about their jobs.
Students in the cosmetology program are taught by licensed professionals who emphasize business practices in addition to the artistic skills of applying makeup and fixing hair. Some students may even graduate with a cosmetology licenses.
“We know not everyone’s gonna go to college,” Hopkins said.
An earlier version of this story said that Alex Orange was killed in 1971. It has since been corrected.