RALEIGH — Southeast Raleigh parents soon will decide whether they want to continue the longtime practice of sending their children to suburban schools or have their kids stay closer to home.
But turnout was light Thursday night at Southeast Raleigh High School for a public meeting for parents to get an update on the student assignment plan being developed for 2012-13.
About 30 people were on hand to give feedback on a new plan that would have families choose from a list of schools instead of being told by the school system where their children have to go.
"I wanted to be here to make sure my nieces and nephews were on the right pathway," said Virginia Wall, a retired teacher.
Families in Southeast Raleigh could see the most change from the new choice-based plan.
For decades, thousands of mostly low-income and minority Southeast Raleigh students have been bused to suburban schools. Their assignment to suburban schools has helped diversify those schools and has freed up seats at magnet schools, mainly in Southeast Raleigh, so that suburban students can attend.
But the school board majority that took office in 2009 eliminated the policy of busing for diversity.
The new plan would give families school options that are mostly near where they live. One option would be a high-performing school, designated by its test scores and quality of its teachers.
Families who live near magnet schools, particularly in Southeast Raleigh, would be given two high-performing schools among their choices. The high-performing schools would primarily be out in the suburbs in an attempt to ensure there are seats in magnet schools for application students.
The new plan, still being developed before it goes to the school board, would still allow Southeast Raleigh families to opt to stay at schools near their neighborhoods.
Historically, few Southeast Raleigh families have attended meetings on student assignment. The situation was no different Thursday.
What's typically happened is that other groups have claimed they speak for Southeast Raleigh families.
Critics of the old diversity policy have said Southeast Raleigh families opposed being bused to the suburbs because the distance made it hard for parents to be involved in schools.
Supporters of the old policy argue that the new plan will increase the likelihood of Southeast Raleigh families going to high-poverty, low-performing schools.
Former school board candidate Rita Rakestraw told school board members on Tuesday that Southeast Raleigh families like going to suburban schools.
"Many of these parents are happy with their children being bused out there because they're getting out of drug-infested neighborhoods with gangs," Rakestraw said.
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