Wake families could get school reassignment 'respite'

khui@newsobserver.comOctober 16, 2012 

— Wake County school board members fired opening shots Tuesday in a battle over a student assignment plan for 2014-2015, with Democrats signaling they’ll make good on promises to rely on address-based assignments and balance students of different achievement levels among system schools.

Board members say a stopgap plan being developed for the 2013-14 school year would replace the current choice-based plan and would reassign relatively few students. In addition, board members are preparing a plan for the 2014-15 school year that could result in many more students being moved.

Republicans, still upset that the choice plan is being dropped, warned that the prospect of two additional years of changing assignment plans was worrying parents and causing confusion about where the system is headed.

“It makes me horrified and terrified of what’s going to happen,” GOP board member Debra Goldman said.

Democrats said the choice plan isn’t sustainable. But they also say there’s not enough time to make the comprehensive changes they want for the schools starting in July 2013.

In a June resolution, board members voted 5-4 along partisan lines to move back to tying each address to a specific school, as well as promoting student achievement, proximity and stability. The 2013-14 plan will restore tying addresses to specific schools, but school administrators have cautioned against making too many changes for next year because time is short.

“I think we need to make sure we are thoughtful in everything we do regarding achievement,” board member Christine Kushner, a member of the board’s Democratic majority, said about long-term planning.

The choice-based plan, which was accompanied by widespread transportation and registration problems, isn’t affordable on a countywide basis, Kushner said.

Busing has increased by 10,000 miles a day. The cost of the busing changes is the subject of an ongoing audit that also will be used in crafting the long-term plan.

Meanwhile, school administrators proposed Tuesday that the 2013-14 student assignment plan be presented to the school board Nov. 13. Public hearings would be held in November and early December, with school assignment staff recommending that the board adopt the plan Dec. 11. The interim plan’s foundation will be the assignment plan used in 2011-2012, the last year before the choice plan was used.

The board opted to use the 2011-12 maps as the starting point because the proposal staff presented last month would have reassigned many neighborhoods. Board Chairman Kevin Hill, a Democrat, said the approach would provide families a “respite.”

Board members say they want to keep some ideas the staff proposed for next year, such as allowing all students to stay at their current schools. This would apply to students whose selection under the choice plan differed from what was in the 2011-12 plan.

Laura Evans, senior director of growth and planning, said she’s trying to limit reassignments for 2013-2014 to Rolesville Middle School and Richland Creek Elementary in Wake Forest, which opened this year, and to Rolesville High and Abbotts Creek Elementary in North Raleigh, set to open next year.

“We’re trying not to make any more changes than we have to now because the big changes are coming in 2014-15,” Evans said.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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