Wake County using diversity as a factor for overflow choices for capped schools

Posted by T. Keung Hui on February 5, 2014 

The use of diversity is becoming more of a factor again in student assignment in Wake County.

As noted in today’s article, school administrators presented Tuesday a list of 20 schools that are proposed for enrollment caps for the 2014-15 school year. In the process, administrators considered demographics when determining the overflow choices for students who could be capped out of those schools.

“In my opinion, we’ve done the best job choosing these overflow choices than we’ve done before,” said Laura Evans, senior director of student assignment. “I appreciate all the input from the area supes, all the different people that were involved.

Each overflow school was reviewed for seat availability, proximity, demographics of the students who would be assigned to the overflow, demographics of the students who are at the overflow school and what kind of impact that would be, the potential number of overflow students. All of those things were discussed and looked at."

One example is how they handled the overflow choices for Leesville Road Elementary School in North Raleigh.

If the school is capped, students who move into Leesville’s primary base area would get Brier Creek Elementary and Hilburn Academy as overflow options. But students who move into Leesville‘s downtown Raleigh satellite area would be split with Node 75.2 going to Joyner Elementary and the rest to Underwood Elementary.

It’s new for staff to recommend different overflow choices for different parts of a capped school’s base area. Evans said that the bases for some schools are so large that it would have hurt transportation efficiency to use the same overflow options for all students.

In Leesville’s case, Evans said that Bob Snidemiller, senior director of transportation, brought up the cost of busing the capped downtown students to the Brier Creek area.

Evans said they don’t like to use magnet schools as overflow choices but it worked in the Leesville case

“The overflow, most everything in the area is a magnet school,” Evans told the school board. “So we started looking at magnet schools and we know that this particular school’s satellite area is a high-needs base area. So we had the chance to say can we overflow them to a school where it will help balance the demographics at a school?

So we have included some magnet schools for that purpose. It saves on transportation. It actually helps us meet the objectives of the magnet program in the process. The magnet people were in the conversation and they were like ‘yeah this will be good. We like this.’”

Unlike most magnet schools, the base populations for Joyner and Underwood have a lower than average percentage of students receiving subsidized lunches. As you guys may recall, one of the three objectives of the magnet school program is to “reduce high concentrations of poverty and support diverse populations.”

This thinking played out as well when determining overflow choices or North Ridge Elementary School in North Raleigh.

If capped, students who move into North Ridge’s North Raleigh base would get Wakefield and Baileywick elementary schools as their overflow choices. But students who move into North Ridge’s downtown satellite area would get Root Elementary as the overflow choice.

Initially they looked at Bugg Elementary as the downtown overflow choice because one of the nodes is right next to the school. The issue is that Bugg, located in East Raleigh, has a base population that has many low-income students – just like North Ridge’s satellite area.

“We originally talked about overflowing them to Bugg,” Evans said. “But that does not help the magnet objectives one bit. So we said well let’s see if we can do something else. It’s right next to a contiguous area of Root so we said let’s let them overflow to Root.”

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