Charlotte, NC

Queen City Roundup 3/24: CMS schools move forward, NC addressing HIV disparity, airport fire and more

Collin Cunningham
The Visulite Theatre in Charlotte will donate 100% of money raised from tonight's "Charlotte for Ukraine" concert to Ukrainian refugees(Charlotte Stories/Twitter)

By Collin Cunningham

(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Happy Thursday, Queen City residents! It is March 24, and don't expect to see much sun today as clouds blanket the sky and keep Charlotte at a nominal high of 69 before an overnight low of 44 and a windy weekend ahead. Today's Roundup focuses on moving forward, as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is progressing on the development of two controversial school buildings via a $125 million contract after announcing a $1.7 billion operating budget.

A North Carolina company is looking to help female Black and Latina residents move forward from HIV diagnoses after the state ranked 11th in the United States for AIDS infections. Making headway after a restaurant fire, Charlotte's international airport is allowing passengers to return to the terminal. Our Music Month pick hopes to help the people of Ukraine move forward by spotlighting a benefit concert happening in Charlotte tonight.

But first, feedback: We want to hear from you to help improve the Roundup. Have a suggestion for changes or new daily features, or want to sound off on a recent story? Drop us a line in the comments section.

1. CMS stories: District approves $125M school contract after announcing $1.7B budget
CMS' Ardrey Kell and South Mecklenburg Relief High School will draw students from Ardrey Kell and South Meck HS when it opens in 2024(Courtesy of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools)

Ardrey Kell arbitration: The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education voted at their meeting on Wednesday to ink a nearly $125 million deal with Cincinnati-based Messer Construction Company to build two new schools in Ballantyne.

Last week, Woodfield Investment purchased the 71-acre Ballantyne site that will contain the new schools from the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte for $36 million, per WSOC. Woodfield will be responsible for constructing 769 residential units in a pair of apartment complexes.

Big budget: Wednesday's board meeting also included an announcement from Superintendent Earnest Winston detailing the district's proposed 2022-2023 operating budget. Outlined in a 113-page summary, the $1.7 billion budget includes $32.3 in employee pay raises and requests $579,017.308 from Mecklenburg County to perform the following work:

  • Achieve North Carolina's highest teacher pay rates
  • Provide salary and benefits increases for all staff
  • Open two new schools
  • Maintain existing facilities
  • Cover the increase in charter school pass-through
  • Support strategic investments that are not allowable or appropriate on COVID-related funding

Winston also spoke at the rendezvous about the school system's plans to address falling third-grade reading scores, per WCNC.

2. HIV in NC: Company donates $250K to help Black and Latina women who survived AIDS

What happened: After a November report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services revealed that the state had the 11th highest rate of new HIV infections in 2019, California pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences announced a $250,000 grant for a new NC AIDS Action Network program.

Infection rates are particularly high among the state's Black and Latina women, who are the focus of the NCAAN's Ella/Her Project. It seeks to spread the word about the disease through virtual and in-person outreach.

Why it matters: "Latina women in North Carolina now contract HIV at rates 3.6 times higher than the broader female population," said Judith Montenegro, director of programming for nonprofit Latinos in the South. Along with the Southern AIDS Coalition, that's one of the programs that will be collaborating with NCAAN on Ella/Her, per a press release announcing the gift.

3. Airport alarm: CLT reopens to passengers after Burger King blaze

Burger King might be known for its flame-grilled patties, but the restaurant may have been close to serving charbroiled airport on Wednesday after a kitchen fire broke out in the atrium at Charlotte Douglas International Airport around 2 p.m. Firefighters shepherded 1,000 passengers out of CLT terminals as they fought the whopper of a blaze, closing some sections of the airport until 4 p.m.

The transportation hub had 234 delays and canceled four flights the day of the fire, according to WBTV.

4. Music Month: Help lend a hand to refugees with tonight's Charlotte for Ukraine benefit concert

Who's up: Today's Music Month mention gathers five artists who will be donating 100% of their proceeds from tonight's Charlotte for Ukraine concert at the Visulite Theatre to Tearfund USA's work supporting Ukrainian refugees. Platinum-selling Charlotte songwriter John Mark McMillan and his indie ingenuity are headlining the event. Also performing are Ukrainian classical guitarist Marina Alexandra, Christian songwriter Andy Squyres, recently debuted singer Julie Susanne Clark and folk guitarist Mark Mathis, all residents of Charlotte.

What to stream: Each artist has a single, album or EP worth exploring. Clark, whose 2021 debut "After the Violence" is the last release from the performers, often crosses paths with the likes of Adele and Alanis Morissette through her personal lyrics and refined voice. Squyres, meanwhile, also has a recent release in the form of last year's "Poet Priest."

Mark Mathis — the folk singer, not the "crazy weatherman" — has a performance of his subdued "Sparrow's Lullaby" on YouTube. McMillan's brand of laid-back strumming calls The Vaccines to Mind on "Has it Been You" while Alexandra has a decent library of covers, including Isaac Albeniz's "Asturia."

Where to see them perform: The show kicks off at the Visulite Theatre at 1615 Elizabeth Ave. in Charlotte at 7 p.m. tonight and readers can effectively donate to Ukrainian refugees by buying a $20 ticket at this page. Over 160 passes were available as of Thursday morning.

More news impacting the Charlotte community today:

Below the Fold

Ardrey Kell, continued: As we reported in January, the buildings — which will decrease student populations a the nearby Ardrey Kell and South Mecklenburg high schools — stirred up some controversy from area residents who are worried about traffic congestion. Charlotte City Council approved the district's rezoning request in February.

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I cover the city of Charlotte, North Carolina for NewsBreak's Creator Program. Check back often for daily headline roundups to learn what's happening in the Queen City!

Charlotte, NC

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