Couple frets about effect of proposal on 3 daughters

Staff WriterJanuary 4, 2009 

— Several years ago, when his oldest daughter was going into middle school, Jim Daley decided to retire from the Marine Corps. He and his wife, Raelene, decided all that moving around couldn't be good for their children's education. They wanted their daughters to attend the same school year after year.

Now, Wake County's school reassignment plan could thwart their intentions.

In the Wood Valley community in North Raleigh,where the Daleys live, parents are being told their children could be reassigned to a middle school farther away for the sake of keeping students together.

School officials think the same students should attend school together, ideally, from elementary school through high school. In theory, that creates a sense of stability for the children.

The plan would move Wood Valley students from Leesville Road Middle School to West Millbrook Middle School. Most of the kids with whom they attend elementary school go on to West Millbrook Middle School.

The Daleys' youngest daughter, McKenna, is in second grade at Jeffreys Grove Elementary School. Her sister Hannah is a seventh-grader at Leesville Middle School, and her oldest sister, Amanda, is a junior at Leesville Road High School.

Though McKenna has several years to go before middle school, her parents aren't sitting tight. They are busy making alternative plans because they are unwilling to send McKenna farther away to middle school. Such a reassignment, in their view, would create a very real risk of having her eventually reassigned to Millbrook High School, which is 14 miles away. When the school system's draft reassignment proposal came out in the fall, their neighborhood was slated to move to Millbrook High.

"We have been really happy at Jeffreys Grove, and I would hate to have to pull her out, but I'm tired of all the uncertainty," Raelene Daley said. "I feel it's just a matter of time before we're pushed to Millbrook High."

To further complicate matters, Leesville Middle is switching to a year-round schedule, so the Daleys' middle daughter, Hannah, will be on a different schedule from their other two girls.

Under the school board's policy of grandfathering, Hannah will likely be allowed to remain at Leesville Middle. But her parents will have to drive her.

"I am going to spend a lot of time in my car next year," Daley said. "It's just a real mess."

It's not just a transportation issue for the Daleys. The farther they are from their children's school, the harder it is for them to be involved. Several months ago when Raelene Daley headed a fundraiser at Leesville Middle, she would stop by the school several times a week. It took her seven minutes to get there. West Millbrook Middle is about twice as far away.

So for the first time, the Daleys are looking at options outside the public schools. They plan to apply to every available charter school and canvass magnet and private schools, too.

Jim Daley even proposed selling their house and moving to get into a school they wanted their daughters to attend. Raelene Daley nixed that idea.

"It used to be you could move to a location and feel secure your child would go to school there," she said. "Now there are no guarantees."

bonnie.rochman@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4871

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