Western Wake questions new schools plan

khui@newsobserver.comDecember 3, 2012 

  • Have your say Another public hearing on the 2013-14 student assignment plan will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Rolesville Middle School, 4700 Burlington Mills Road, Rolesville. Go to wcpss.net/blog/2012/11/student-assignment-plan-proposal-for-2013-14 to view the plan, make comments or register to speak at Wednesday’s hearing.

— Western Wake parents brought the message Monday that their children face being shuffled next year, even thought they’re not officially part of the new Wake County student assignment plan.

School assignment staff say that the new plan for the 2013-14 school year would reassign 1,479 students, making the proposal small in scale compared to others in recent years. But speakers at Monday’s public hearing at Davis Drive Middle School in Cary said the plan would disrupt the lives of far more students than the number implies.

“I know I’m not part of the 1,479 but I’m concerned about what is happening,” said Cary parent Cyndi Tomblin, one of some 30 speakers out of a crowd of about 85.

At issue is the way assignment staff tried to meet the school board’s requirement to develop a “stopgap plan” to replace the choice plan being used this school year. This stopgap plan, which restores the practice of assigning addresses to specific schools, would cover the 2013-14 school year. A more comprehensive plan is to be developed for 2014-15.

The board told staff to build the stopgap plan off the school attendance lines from the 2011-12 school year — the last year before the choice plan went into effect.

The 1,479 figure represents students, primarily from northeastern Wake, whose assigned school for the 2013-14 school year would be different from the assignment for their address for the 2011-12 school year. But as parents on Monday pointed out, going back to the 2011-12 lines affects other families, too.

For example, it affects families who would have different year-round schools as choices if they want a choice other than their assigned traditional-calendar school. The same is true for year-round students who’d like to be able to choose a different traditional-calendar school.

“We like year-round,” said Cary parent Greg Stelmack, whose child’s year-round middle school option would change. “You’d think that we’re the parents you want to keep happy.”

The 1,479-student figure also doesn’t include cases where families face a different middle-school or high-school assignment from what they would have gotten under the choice plan.

Under the choice plan, students were guaranteed a “feeder pattern,” or path from kindergarten through high school, once a family had chosen a specific school.

Members of the board’s new Democratic majority that voted to replace the choice plan have been skeptical of guaranteeing school assignments for 13 years in the face of future growth. The new plan only 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. Those families won’t be guaranteed bus service.

“How can you not honor the promise made by the board before you?” Apex parent Erika Phillips said.

Several speakers criticized the board for dropping the choice plan now and not giving it more time to work. Democratic board members have argued it was too costly to keep the choice plan, citing busing costs from extra miles needed to fulfill the plan this school year.

School board members listened to parents in preparation for a work session Tuesday to discuss changes to the plan. Another public hearing will be held Wednesday before the final vote scheduled for Dec. 11.

Monday’s meeting was more low-key than last week’s hearing, when board member Susan Evans snatched the microphone from colleague Deborah Prickett’s hand as Prickett attempted to talk to the crowd. Evans has apologized for the action.

School board chairman Kevin Hill instructed the board members Monday only to listen, not talk with parents during the hearing.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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