RALEIGH — In a rare display of public support, nearly half the speakers at Thursday's public hearing praised the Wake County school system's controversial student reassignment plan.
Wake's reassignment process traditionally brings out parents who object to the reassignment plan, as exemplified by the number of critics at the hearing held Monday at Apex High School.
But seven of the 16 speakers at Southeast Raleigh High School on Thursday urged the school board to leave in place the reassignment of students to Stough Elementary School and the conversion of Leesville Road Middle School to a year-round calendar.
"Thank you for your vote to convert Leesville Road Middle School," said Terri Exel, a member of BiggerPicture4Wake, a group that supports changing Leesville's calendar.
Wake annually reassigns students to fill new schools, ease crowding at existing schools and promote diversity. The latest plan calls for reassigning 25,486 students to different schools over the next three years.
One part of the new plan is to reassign students from Lacy Elementary School in Raleigh to nearby Stough Elementary. The move would make the percentage of low-income students at both schools more comparable.
Lacy parents successfully fought the changes three years ago. They've been lobbying board members again to be dropped from the plan.
But on Thursday, several Stough parents argued the moves are necessary to help make their school academically healthy. They urged Lacy families to give Stough a chance.
"The plan makes perfect sense," said Stough parent Gail Guyrek.
Some speakers were critical of the plan, especially of the reassignment of low-income, minority students from downtown and Southeast Raleigh to diversify more distant schools.
Venita Peyton, a community leader from Southeast Raleigh, asked the school board to hold off on adopting the plan for 30 days. The board is scheduled to vote on the plan on Feb. 3.
Peyton argued that many minority families aren't aware of the plan, noting the small, largely white crowd of about 50 people at Thursday night's hearing. About 200 people had attended Monday's hearing at Apex High.
Lonnette Williams, chairwoman of the Central Raleigh Citizens Advisory Council, said that students in downtown Raleigh and South Park are being asked to travel too far to attend school. She pointed out how the plan calls for reassigning students 18 miles away to Green Hope High School in western Cary.
"Allowing students to attend schools in closer proximity to their residence will lead to greater success," Williams said.
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