Today's Ledger, from the journalists of tomorrow
What's inside: CMS schools are getting taller; What's behind the Pop It fidget toy craze?; Records request uncovers most popular names; Kids give their hot takes on Charlotte's hottest restaurants
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EDITOR’S NOTE: TODAY’S LEDGER WAS WRITTEN ENTIRELY BY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS
One of the great things about kids is that they tend to have unquenchable curiosity and a no-nonsense sense of what’s interesting — both of which are valuable and essential qualities for journalists.
So, we decided to turn today’s newsletter over to our news partners at the Ballantyne Elementary Paw Press, a before-school elementary school newspaper club made up of more than a dozen 4th and 5th graders, ages 9 to 11. Ledger managing editor Cristina Bolling has been leading the Paw Press as a volunteer every week for the last eight years, helping young reporters, photographers and editors take their always-keen story and photo ideas and turn them into a communication tool for their school.
As you’ll see, their news judgment, reporting and photography skills give local news media a run for its money. Under Cristina’s guidance, these young students wrote the articles, and we wrote the headlines. Today’s Ledger contains a just sampling of what the Paw Press staff created for their first edition of the 2021-22 school year.
Some people are pessimistic about the future of local news, but we see the future as bright! We hope you enjoy.
CMS: Expect more 3-story schools as Charlotte grows; building ‘up’ and not ‘out’
Fourth and fifth-grade students and teachers at Ballantyne Elementary get plenty of exercise, because their classrooms are on the third floor, so they must go up and down stairs many times a day. (Paw Press staff photos)
by Siya Dama, Nili Desai, Aaira Gautam, Mila Pinkney
Have you ever noticed how unusual it is to see a school like Ballantyne Elementary, that has three floors, yet is so big and so wide?
It is rare for a Charlotte elementary school to have three floors. Other elementary schools have just one big floor with everything on the same level.
We wanted to know why our school has three floors, so we did an email interview with Dennis LaCaria, who works in facilities planning for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. He explained why our school has three floors, and gave us some surprising news about what Charlotte schools of the future will look like!
Mr. LaCaria said Ballantyne Elementary, which opened in 2009, was “the first three story elementary school designed from the ground up.” He also said it is “just more responsible to build ‘up’ and not ‘out,’ from the impacts to the environment.”
Here’s an edited version of our email interview:
Q: Why was Ballantyne Elementary designed to have three floors? Was there not enough land around the school to make it all one floor?
The lots around the area on which the school was sited were already subdivided, and had utilities and other infrastructure associated with them. [There was a neighborhood planned for the land around the school, and those new homes were built in 2018-2019.] Because we recognized that real estate in Mecklenburg County was going to become scarcer and more expensive, we saw this as an opportunity to develop a prototypical three-story elementary school.
Q: How unusual is it for a CMS elementary school to have three floors? Are there any others with three floors?
Currently, elementary schools with three stories are Ballantyne Elementary, Elizabeth Traditional, First Ward and Myers Park Traditional. K-8 schools with three floors are Davidson K-8, Northeast, Rea Farms and Renaissance West.
Q: What design challenges are there when creating a school with three floors?
The biggest challenges come with addressing the fact that kindergarten through second-grade students can only be in ground-level spaces, so all of their classrooms, specials (like art), the media center, offices and multipurpose rooms must be on the first floor. This “rule” applies to all schools built in N.C. Any building of two or more stories in height requires an elevator and appropriate stair towers; restrooms on each floor; and other components, but none of those are (in and of themselves) a challenge.
Q: Do you have plans to build more tall schools in the future?
Absolutely. Real estate is, in fact, even more expensive and harder to come by in Mecklenburg County than it was in 2007. This community is becoming more “urban” and school designs should also urbanize. Additionally, schools are supported primarily through property tax proceeds. Any time CMS, Mecklenburg County, the city of Charlotte or any of the towns “remove” property from the tax rolls, there is a potential impact to school funding. Finally, it is just more responsible to build “up” and not “out,” from impacts to the environment, to the energy efficiency of the building, to the fact that the area of the roof (which must be maintained and ultimately replaced) is reduced.
Today’s supporting sponsors are T.R. Lawing Realty …
… and Payzer:
What’s behind the ‘Pop It’ fidget toy craze?
Pop It fidget toys come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. (Paw Press staff photo)
By Berta Reig and Claire Rooks
A Pop It is a fidget toy where people repeatedly pop “dimples” in and out, and it is similar to popping bubble wrap. When you are done popping the dimples on one side, you can flip it over and do it again!
It’s a very popular toy, and many students have many of them. Lots of people find them stress relieving and satisfying.
Pop Its were first created in 1975, but the creators couldn’t get people interested in buying them. A few years ago, they tried again and were able to strike a deal with a Canadian company, Foxmind, according to the BBC. In 2019, they got an amazing deal with Target under the name of Pop It! They became popular over the past year, because of the pandemic stress and viral TikTok videos.
We asked two Paw Press members for their opinions about Pop Its:
Q: When did you get your first Pop It?
Julia Bolling: “At the end of 4th grade.”
Nili Desai: “About 3 or 4 months ago.”
Q: Why did you get a Pop It?
Julia Bolling: “Because a lot of people had them and they seemed fun.”
Nili Desai: “I really wanted one [before I got mine] but it was way too expensive.”
Q: What’s the favorite Pop It that you have? What color is it?
Julia Bolling: “My lobster Pop It! And it’s red.”
Nili Desai: “My unicorn Pop It! And it’s pink.”
Investigation: What are the most popular names at our school?
by Julia Bolling and Elise Cavallaro
There are lots of different names in our school community, state, country and world.
We were curious about what the most popular names at our school are, so we asked the front office staff for a list of all of the names of Ballantyne Elementary School students. We went through the entire approximately 900-name list to find out which ones are the most popular.
There are so many names of students from different places! Here are the most popular names:
Sophia/Sofia: 12 students
Cameron: 6 students
Sebastian, Victoria, Aiden/Ayden/Aidan, Saanvi: 5 students
Claire, Gabriel, Ira, Sydney, Valentina, Emma, Ryan, Joshua, Mason, Grayson, Charlie: 4 students
How do they stack up nationally?: We wondered how popular those names were across the country, so we looked at the Social Security Administration’s list of the most popular baby names from 2013. (That is the year current third graders were born.)
Here were the most popular girl and boy names in 2013:
Girls: Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Isabella, Ava
Boys: Noah, Jacob, Liam, Mason, William
Meet Cameron!: One of the top names at our school is Cameron, so we interviewed one who is in the third grade!
Q: How do you feel, knowing your name is one of the most popular?
Q: Are there any other Camerons in your class this year?
Q: How many Camerons do you think there are in our school?
12 can’t-miss Charlotte restaurants, as recommended by 4th and 5th graders
For a tasty sandwich, it’s hard to beat Subway because of its “fresh veggies” and “sauce,” according to one Ballantyne Elementary student.
by Katherine Roberts
We asked a sample of kids for their favorite local restaurants, and we got a variety of results. Most of the kids liked a restaurant because of one food in particular, but some of them liked all the food a restaurant served. One of our favorite answers was a student who said she liked a restaurant because she is “always in the mood for it.”
Here’s where a group of 4th and 5th grade students at our school like to eat, and why:
Subway: “I like Subway because it has fresh veggies. I also like the sauce they have.”
Burtons Grill & Bar: “Kid’s menu is cool. Food is DELICIOUS!!! Service is good.”
McDonald’s: “My favorite restaurant is McDonald’s because in the past, we went on road trips and went to McDonald’s for fries. I especially like the big ones most, and how they taste so salty.”
Emmet’s Social Table: “Their Brussels sprouts are AMAZING.”
Eddie V’s: “My favorite is Eddie V’s because it is very fancy and very yum.”
Olive Garden: “I love Olive Garden because their desserts are fresh, hot and yummy. Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant that mostly has pasta, but there are many more items to pick from.”
Chick-fil-A: “My favorite place to eat is Chick-fil-A, because I’m always in the mood for it.”
Nothing But Noodles: “I like Nothing But Noodles because it has pasta.”
Pizza Hut: “Their onion and green bell pepper is so good!”
McDonald’s and Burger 21: “They remind me of the food in Barcelona (Spain).”
Portofino’s: “Their pizza is good, and I love their garlic knots and chicken parmesan.”
Chipotle: “I like this place because it has a lot of the things I want to eat.”
INSIDE THE NEWSROOM
Members of the Ballantyne Elementary Paw Press (shown here, with a couple staffers missing) meet every Tuesday morning in the school media center. The Ledger thanks them for their hard work and for partnering with us on this issue.
A few (adult-written) Ledger housekeeping items: Crossword solution, Charity Shout-Out, gifts
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