New Wake plan would reassign 1,479 students

Board will review draft of 2013-14 overhaul of choice effort Tuesday

khui@newsobserver.comNovember 11, 2012 

Nearly 1,500 students could be reassigned next year as the Wake County school system transitions between this year’s choice-based plan and a return to an approach that ties every address to a specific school.

That’s according to a proposal to be presented to school board members Tuesday. Details of the draft 2013-14 student assignment plan were made available on the Wake County schools website this weekend in advance of Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Under the plan, 1,479 students, or about 1 percent of the system’s population, would face reassignment, most to one of three new schools in northeastern Wake: Richland Creek Elementary in Wake Forest, Rolesville Middle and Rolesville High. The opening of a fourth new school — Abbotts Creek Elementary in North Raleigh — is recommended for a delay to the 2014-15 school year.

In addition to the reassignments, 34 schools around the county face enrollment caps to control overcrowding. In 12 of the schools, such as Lacy and Davis Drive elementary schools, hard caps are proposed that could keep newcomers who move next to the schools from attending.

The proposal reflects the school board’s direction to assignment staff to develop a plan for next school year that moved relatively few students and was focused primarily on filling new schools and dealing with overcrowded schools. Board members said they want staff to take their time to develop a more comprehensive plan for the 2014-15 school year but want to minimize moves in the meantime.

“The board is committed to stability in the grade spans, and that’s a significant commitment to parents,” said board member Christine Kushner on Sunday.

The proposal from staff, which the school board would be asked to vote on Dec. 11 after several public hearings, moves less students than in recent years, when more than 10,000 students were sometimes reassigned.

Under the choice plan in effect this year, students were guaranteed a “feeder pattern,” or path from kindergarten through high school, once a family had chosen specific school. The current board, with a Democratic majority, elected to discard the choice plan passed with votes from both parties.

“It’s been clear that the choice plan created some assignments that have added to our busing costs and weren’t proximate,” Kushner said. “We need to look at more contiguous assignments and ones that are supported by the capacity and the logistical assets we have.”

The plan says that Wake will try to honor requests from families of rising sixth- and ninth-graders next year who want the feeder pattern from the choice plan. A total of 1,050 students facing reassignment would be guaranteed the right to stay at their current school because they are eligible for grandfathering.

Students could keep their bus service if they turn down a reassignment to a current school, but they’d lose transportation if they turned down an assignment to one of the new schools.

Richland Creek Elementary and Rolesville Middle opened earlier this school year. But they’re treated as new schools in the plan because they opened under the choice plan when addresses were no longer assigned to specific schools.

Allison Backhouse, a critic of the Democratic board majority, said the stability promise was hollow because most of the families in the plan who don’t want to be reassigned would have to provide their own transportation.

“It’s not stability when you don’t have a bus,” she said.

Strict limits planned

The document online shows that assignment staff are recommending dealing with overcrowding by setting strict enrollment limits at 12 schools: Briarcliff, Brooks, Cedar Fork, Conn, Davis Drive, Green Hope, Lacy, Mills Park, Underwood, Wildwood Forest and Wiley elementary schools and Heritage Middle School.

New students who move into the attendance areas for those schools would be sent to other schools that have space. Families of students who live in other parts of the county also wouldn’t be able to request a transfer into those 12 schools.

Some of the 12 schools recommended for a full cap on enrollment are magnet schools. The document doesn’t spell out how they’d handle the issue of new magnet applicants next year.

The plan also identifies 12 elementary schools, five middle schools and five high schools recommended for a “partial cap.” This means that the schools would still take new students who move into their attendance area but wouldn’t take transfers from students who live elsewhere.

Other components in the plan include:

• Requiring rising sixth- and ninth-grade magnet students to apply to attend a magnet middle school or high school. They’d have high selection priority. Under the choice plan, magnet students were automatically assigned to the next level of magnets.

• Restoring the practice of setting aside 10 percent of magnet seats to be filled randomly.

• Reassigning some neighborhood students out of Fox Road Elementary School to free up space for people to apply for its new magnet school program.

• Moving East Garner and Green elementary schools from year-round to traditional calendars.

• Moving Hodge Road, Lockhart and Vance elementary schools and East Wake and North Garner middle schools from a multi-track, year-round calendar to solely track 4, the most popular option.

• Creating a period from Jan. 7-14 where students who aren’t attending the assigned school for their address can request a seat there the following school year if there’s space.

• Creating a transfer period from Feb. 18 to March 1 where families can request to attend any school where there’s space. Transportation isn’t guaranteed.

“There’s more we’re doing here than just reassigning a few nodes,” school board member Susan Evans said at a board work session last month.

View the proposed 2013-2014 school assignment plan.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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