RALEIGH — Reaction was mixed Monday at the first public opportunity to comment on Wake County's draft plan to move 26,771 students to different schools over the next three years.
Around 300 people gathered at Leesville Road High School to hear school administrators explain how the reassignment plan affects the controversial decision to convert Leesville Road Middle School to a year-round calendar.
Supporters and opponents of conversion both weighed in on the plan. It would move 382 students into Leesville Road Middle while moving out 189 students over the next three years.
"Leave us alone," said Bradford Brady, a Leesville parent. "I think you can find some happy, unsuspecting school down the road to convert."
But several other parents said conversion was the best choice.
"It's important for people to know there's a group of parents that support conversion to the year-round calendar," said Ginger Henshall, a Leesville parent. "I applaud the school board's decision."
Located in northwest Raleigh, Leesville has an elementary, middle and high school on the same campus. The school has dealt with the year-round calendar since Leesville Road Elementary was one of 22 schools converted to that schedule in 2007.
Chuck Dulaney, assistant superintendent for growth and planning, said it is necessary to also convert Leesville Road Middle to reduce crowding and to provide seats for children from year-round elementary schools.
With the economy making it uncertain when more funding would come for building schools, Dulaney said that converting the school would create more seats, period. Year-round schools can hold more students than traditional-calendar schools by putting the buildings in constant use.
While Dulaney talked about calendar continuity for year-round elementary and middle schools, parents of some high school students complained that things would get worse now. There are no year-round high schools.
"Year-round as a strategy to handle growth is disruptive to families and disruptive to communities," said Richard Boris, a Leesville parent facing high school scheduling conflicts. "I hope you will reconsider this."
But Mary Deverter said it's something she's not complaining about.
"We've been extremely happy with year-round, and we hope that Leesville Middle will convert," said Deverter, who has children at Leesville Road Middle and Sycamore Creek Elementary schools. "We've accepted as a family that we'll have strange schedules for a few years."
Kim Grimes, a Leesville Elementary teacher, "begged" the district to reverse the conversion of the school and not to implement the change at the middle school. She said the year-round fight has divided the community.
"The Leesville community no longer feels like a community," Grimes said. "People try to make it that way. But it's not the same anymore."
Dulaney tried to address some of the concerns by saying staff will recommend that families who don't want to stay at Leesville Elementary will be able to apply for a traditional-calendar seat at Hilburn Elementary School.
While Monday's meeting was heavily focused on one school, five other meetings are expected to be more open-ended. Parents will have a chance to suggest changes before administrators present a revised plan to the school board Dec. 16.
A final vote is expected Feb. 3.
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