CARY — The winners of Wake Countys new student assignment plan were cheering Friday about getting into the schools they wanted for this fall, while some other parents spoke bitterly about not getting even one of their choices.
Starting Friday afternoon, parents of the 19,048 students who had submitted applications earlier this year began going online to see how they fared in the first round of the selection process. From the 75 percent of applicants who got their first-choice school came signs of relief and happiness.
If I could hug the school board, I would, said Kelly Commiskey of Cary, whose daughter was accepted into Adams Elementary School. It took a lot of courage for them to go ahead with the assignment plan, and Im glad they did.
But for the 25 percent who didnt get their top choice the reaction was far from jubilant. It was especially unhappy for the parents of 225 students whom Wake didnt seat in any of their choices in the first round. This group consists of students not currently enrolled in the district, including newcomers and those leaving charter or private schools,
School officials say the 225 unplaced students will have to wait until the second round concludes April 9 to learn where theyll be placed. Some of the affected families said they had been misled by the system when they signed up for their choices.
They never said a percentage didnt get any choice, said North Raleigh parent Eileen Taylor, who learned by email Friday that her daughter didnt get any of her requested high schools for ninth-grade.
Judy Peppler, who oversees student assignment as Wakes chief transformation officer, said more seats will open up soon.
Ultimately, every student currently unassigned will get an assignment at one of the schools on their list, and we are trying hard to get them the choice they want, she said.
Under Wakes new choice-based student assignment plan, families are no longer assigned to a specific school based on their address. Instead, families rank where they want to attend from a list of school choices.
In the first round, 75 percent got their first choice, and 82 percent got one of their top two choices.
Im still not a big fan of the plan, but its gone better than I thought it would, said former North Raleigh school board candidate Jennifer Mansfield, whose son got into Wakefield High School, his first choice.
Superintendent Tony Tata reiterated Friday that 97 percent of students are going to the school they want this fall. In addition to counting the people who got their first choice, Tata is including the more than 120,000 current students who didnt submit an application because they were grandfathered to stay at their current schools.
The system cant realistically say 97 percent of families are happy with their choices, said Connie Helminger, an Apex parent who unsuccessfully applied to change her daughters elementary school. I know how to manipulate statistics, and thats what they are doing.
Over the next week, administrators will fill more than 700 open magnet school seats from people who are on waiting lists. The openings were created by people who left magnet schools in the first round.
As that happens, Tata said, Were going to see the number of first choices go up.
People who are unhappy with the first-round results can participate in the second round that opens Monday and runs through April 9. But people who apply will lose the seats they got in the first round and their spots on waiting lists.
Its expected that mostly newcomers will participate in the second round. This includes more than 2,000 additional projected kindergarten students who havent enrolled yet.
Tata also said Friday that staff will see whether enough students apply in the second round to Abbotts Creek Elementary in North Raleigh and Richland Creek Elementary in Wake Forest before recommending whether to open the schools for the 2012-13 school year. Both new schools attracted few applicants in the first round.