Inside the Lion’s Den: Take a Tour of the New West Charlotte High School

On August 29, West Charlotte High School will welcome approximately 1,600 students to the 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 nearly 70 years old.

While the finishing touches were being made, QCity Metro was given a tour of the new campus, which district officials say will provide more space and better technology in the classroom for students and faculty. (Photos by Daija Peeler.)

Fix the roar

West Charlotte students are also athletes. A new swimming pool (top) will serve as an exercise and meeting facility, while the newly waxed floors of the school’s two gymnasiums (bottom) will accommodate volleyball, wrestling and basketball.

The West Charlotte basketball team won the 3A state champions last year and the school will hold a flag-raising ceremony. While the larger of the two gyms has soundproofing panels and extended bleachers for more than 900 spectators, the additional gym has no bleachers and a scoreboard donated by the class of ’86.

“If we raise that championship banner to christen that new gym,” said dean of college students Billy Hopkins, “it’s going to be a good feeling.”

Outside, a new and larger football stadium (downstairs) will host football, athletics and the school’s famous marching band, already at work perfecting their routines.

“The sound they bring is amazing,” Hopkins said. “They take great pride in donning the West Charlotte band uniform and performing and competing.”

A new band classroom (below) includes a few smaller rehearsal rooms, a music library and soundproofing panels, as well as a main room for ensemble practice.

Band rehearsal room.

The new hall can accommodate approximately 800 students and has a theater control cabinet at the rear.

Safety is important. Students entering the building go through full-body scanners. Visitors enter through two locked doors after being pre-buzzed by a faculty member. Hopkins said this is an improvement because the old building was “too open.”

Along the hallways, motivational quotes adorn the walls… “to try to keep scholars motivated and encouraged,” Hopkins said.

Inclusivity

The large cafeteria, which overlooks the football stadium, has a wall of glass panels under flags representing much of the world nation. An international baccalaureate school, West Charlotte students come out and enter careers around the world.

The kitchen.

The kitchen, which will serve approximately 800 students at a time, includes chrome, state-of-the-art ovens, refrigerators and stoves. Eight employees serve while the rest do the dishes and cook.

Cafeteria manager Darryl Reid describes the new eatery as “from a Ford Pinto to a Rolls Royce.”

“There’s huge potential here,” Reid said. Thirteen employees, plus a few newcomers, will serve, cook and wash the dishes. “It’s quite a big production for just one high school,” Reid said.

“Charlotte Rocks” rocking chair, by Beverly Smith, on display in the cafeteria.

The stairs to the second floor are the ‘omni’, a multifunctional classroom. Connected to the omni is the culinary arts classroom where students learn, prepare, cook and serve their own dishes.

On the third floor, the library includes a computer lab and an audiovisual classroom where the student-produced morning announcement will be recorded.

Most of the school’s books are brand new and contain titles that represent a range of stories about the different identities of the world. Hopkins emphasizes that as IB school, West Charlotte students of all backgrounds have the opportunity to ask what they want to read and study about.

“Diversity is needed to run the world,” Hopkins said.

Library.
Library.

History

During the days of public school integration, white students were taken to West Charlotte by buses from all over the city. Student activists were nationally known as leaders in the integration struggle. They also organized against violence and founded Students Against Violence Everywhere. Hopkins said Boston became a sister city to Charlotte and the two school districts exchanged students.

“The concerted effort to be as one unfolded and they finally made it work,” he said.

A collage of archival photos honors the legacy of West Charlotte and her students.

In 1971, Alex Orange, a beloved West Charlotte student athlete, was murdered at a party. Students raised money to have an engraved marble bench made in his honor.

“His death had an impact on the entire school… not just the entire school, but the community as well,” Hopkins says.

“You can go anywhere in the country and if someone sees this shirt,” Hopkins pointed to his West Charlotte High School T-shirt, “they’re yelling ‘Dub C’ and the answer is ‘you know’.”

Career development

Up the stairs in the cafeteria, on the second floor, there are classrooms for cosmetology and culinary arts. There is also a career center where guest speakers from all over the country talk to students about their jobs.

Cosmetology program classroom.

Students in the cosmetology program are taught by licensed professionals who emphasize business practices in addition to the artistic skills of applying makeup and setting hair. Some students may even graduate with a cosmetology license.

“We know not everyone goes to college,” Hopkins said.

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