Harding Principal Glenn Starnes picture in front of the school's administration building. September 2023. (Jalon Hill/QCity Metro)

One west Charlotte school is hoping for an upgrade if a proposed Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bond is approved this fall.

On Nov. 7, Mecklenburg County residents will have the opportunity to vote on a $2.5 billion bond referendum, which includes a number of school renovations and replacements.

Among the projects is a $202 million plan to build a new building for Harding University High School.

Why It Matters: Harding High School’s oldest building was constructed in 1961. Students and staff have complained about facility issues that include mold, leaky pipes, bad ceilings and smell issues.

 “School houses are your second home,” Principal Glenn Starnes told QCity Metro. “Our students deserve the best learning environment.”

A necessary upgrade

Starnes became principal in March after serving in leadership at KIPP Public Charter Schools.

Starnes said school district budgets are very important in the management and operations of each facility.

“You learn to stretch every penny,” he said. 

If voters approve the bond, Harding University High will get a new, three-story building that will connect some of the more modern buildings on campus.

The school will also get a new gym and media center/administrative building known as the G building.

Starnes said Harding, a magnet school, is already an attractive destination in terms of its college prep courses. A new facility will draw even more students in, he said.

“We want to be their number one choice,” Starnes told QCity Metro.

The motto going into last school year was “The Return of the Rams,” a mantra in reference to increasing school pride.

A new facility that will further that goal, he said.

A distraction in the classroom

Senior Jada Brown, who serves as Miss Harding University High School, told QCity Metro she has excelled as a student, but not all her classmates can say the same.

Brown credits some students’ performance to the school’s condition, describing it as a “distraction.”

Brown mentioned an issue with mold in the locker room that, according to her, causes students to skip class.

“They [would] rather fail and not do the work that’s because of the environment in the locker room,” she said. 

The concerning conditions also exist in the classroom, which impacts how students learn, Brown said.

“If I’m looking at a ceiling and it looks like it’s about to fall down, then that’s going to affect my learning,” she said. 

Though she won’t be around to enjoy a new facility, she is happy that future Harding students could be able to experience it.

Instruction and safety concerns

Andrea Baine has been at Harding for the last five years, currently serving as a dean of culture and instruction. She said she recognizes how the facility is impacting learning.

Harding’s campus is made up of multiple buildings that students have to move between. 

Baine said students often arrive to class tired, sweaty and sometimes wet if it rains.

Baine is also concerned about safety on campus since the buildings are separated.

It would be easier for an intruder to come onto campus without school security knowing. 

 “I feel that teachers and students will feel a little bit more safe if we had one building,” she said.

Another way

A group of local pastors is challenging the bond and encouraging residents to vote against it.

Ricky Woods, pastor of First Baptist-West Church, said the bond would cause a tax increase that would negatively impact Black residents.

Woods said the group, consisting of 20 Black faith leaders, believes new buildings are important but that the district needs to prioritize funds for teachers and academic resources.

“It’s not going to do one thing to address our greatest need, and that’s the academic achievement of our students,” he said.

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Jalon is a general assignment reporter for QCity Metro. He is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and an avid sports fan. (jalon@qcitymetro.com)

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