RALEIGH — More Wake County students will likely be able to stay at their current schools without being separated from their brothers and sisters.
While reviewing potential changes to the school district's reassignment plan, the Wake school board gave preliminary approval Thursday to expanding the grandfathering policy so more siblings can get transfers to stay at their current school. (A student reassigned from School A to School B needs a transfer back to School A to avoid reassignment.)
The policy change addresses, at least in part, a long-standing complaint from parents that student reassignment splits families apart.
Under the revised policy, if an older sibling is automatically eligible for a transfer to stay at his or her current school, that student's younger brothers or sisters can stay at that school, too. But a student who will start kindergarten the next school year cannot get such a transfer.
Additionally, school staffers said the policy would benefit families assigned to Heritage High or the unnamed H6 high school, two new schools opening in 2010.
Rising juniors and seniors won't go to Heritage or H6, because those school won't have upperclassmen when they open.
Now rising sophomores who are siblings of upperclassmen can automatically stay at their current high schools.
"This is a breathtaking change," said school board member Beverley Clark.
Chuck Dulaney, assistant superintendent for growth and planning, said the schools can allow more siblings to stay together because crowding is less severe than in the past.
The board also agreed to let staffers automatically approve transfers for students who would be reassigned twice within three years.
Thursday's vote was informal, and the decisions still require final approval, which is expected Feb. 3.
The board is discussing changes to a plan that would move 25,486 students to different schools over the next three years.
The plan is designed to fill 10 new schools, ease crowding at existing schools, promote socioeconomic diversity and keep groups of students together as they move to different schools. Wake tries to have groups of elementary students attend the same middle school and, if possible, the same high school.
Citing parental feedback, Dulaney proposed 13 changes to the plan on Thursday. The changes, which the board has not yet approved, include:
* Move Lacy Elementary School students to Root Elementary School in 2009 instead of 2010.
* Move Panther Creek High School students to Cary High School in 2009 instead of 2010.
* Move all the Carnage Middle School students to Dillard Drive in 2009 and not 2010.
* Don't reassign students from Smith Elementary School to Middle Creek Elementary School.
The proposal to not move the Smith students was met with guarded optimism by Beteena Person. She has been mobilizing her Southeast Raleigh neighborhood to lobby school officials to leave students at Smith.
"I'll look and see if it happens," Person said.
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