CARY — Wake County school board members are trying to reassure parents that a proposal to limit overcrowding at nearly three dozen schools won’t shut their children out next school year.
School assignment staff are recommending that some schools accept only new students who live in their attendance areas while other schools not take any newcomers. Board members said Tuesday that the district needs to make it clear that the proposed restrictions are aimed primarily at people who haven’t yet moved into the county, and that they wouldn’t have much effect on existing families.
“We just need to educate people on how this will work,” school board member Susan Evans said.
Historically, as long as you lived within a school’s attendance area, you were able to attend that school no matter how crowded it became. In 1997, Wake began occasionally capping overcrowded schools, but the proposed 2013-14 student assignment plan represents the most aggressive use of capping ever in the state’s largest school system.
School administrators are recommending that 12 schools have a “full cap,” meaning if they reach a certain enrollment they wouldn’t accept any new students for the rest of the school year. Newcomers who move into their attendance areas would be given up to three different schools to choose from.
An additional 22 schools are recommended for a “partial cap,” meaning they’ll only enroll new students who live in their attendance areas. They would not accept transfer requests from students who live in other parts of the district.
In the spring, staff will recommend which schools should have full caps for the 2013-14 school year.
Board members said the capping proposal has produced some confusion among parents.
“We need to make sure we don’t panic any more families,” board member Debra Goldman said.
Laura Evans, senior director of student assignment, said that as long as you’ve already established residence in a school’s attendance area, you’re not affected by the cap. She said this includes families who don’t yet have children who are of school age, those who may have children attending a private school and those who might be attending another district school.
Laura Evans said also they wouldn’t bar any current students at a capped school or their younger siblings from attending.
“Once you’re at the capped school, you get to stay,” she said.
The board’s policy committee didn’t act on staff’s request to modify board policy specifically to allow the superintendent to place partial caps. Staff had wanted the policy revisions to be adopted by Dec. 11, the same day as the scheduled vote on the assignment plan
“The great thing about this is it’s one of the first tools we’ve seen in maybe forever of actually addressing growth in our assignment plan,” said board member Jim Martin, chairman of the policy committee. “We want to affirm going forward with this idea, but we’ve got to flesh out the details.”