CARY — The complaints about Wake County's new student assignment plan continued Tuesday from parents whose children won't get the promised vision of neighborhood schools.
More than 25 parents and students from Carpenter Elementary in Cary protested outside the school board meeting about how the plan will send their children to a middle school much farther from home.
"You've heard the facts before - East Cary is our seventh-closest middle school," said Carpenter Elementary parent Travis Getz. "This in no way fits with the 'neighborhood schools' goal of this new assignment plan."
School administrators have touted the new choice-based assignment plan as a way to allow students to attend elementary schools close to home. Passed by the board's previous Republican majority, it replaced the previous model in which some students were assigned to distant schools as a way to promote socioeconomic diversity.
The changes led to months of debate - much of which is re-emerging in the weeks before the new Democratic-majority school board reviews it Jan. 3. Some of the most vocal critics live in Cary.
"Our children deserve a realistic chance at a middle school in their own neighborhood," said Carpenter parent Dana Perrin.
The new choice plan taking effect for the 2012-13 school year would let families pick from at least five elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools.
School leaders have suggested that the new plan would end fears of annual student reassignment. Families will be given "feeder patterns" letting them know ahead of time which middle and high schools they would attend.
East Cary was chosen as the destination for Carpenter students because it shares the same year-round calendar. The Carpenter parents said their children wouldn't have to go to the other side of Cary if the prior board had stuck with a plan to open Mills Park Middle in western Cary on a year-round calendar.
Carpenter families can apply to attend a closer school, but they'd only get accepted if there's space.
Joining the parents at the board meeting were other critics of the plan who urged the new members to delay it.
Keith Sutton, the Democratic vice chairman, said the board wants an effective and sustainable plan. "We have been listening and have heard many voices - some who want this plan to go forward unaltered and some who want this plan delayed," Sutton said. "Both sides have merit. As members of this board, we have an obligation to find something in between."