Wake County school system considering bringing back “spot nodes”

Posted by T. Keung Hui on April 29, 2014 

Families with school-age children considering moving into the Southerlyn, Traditions at Heritage Wake Forest and Walnut Terrace housing developments may want to consider a change of address.

As noted in today’s article, the Wake County school system is considering reviving the practice of spot nodes, which would now be called “assignment of future housing developments.” Those three developments were identified by staff for possible student assignment changes for the 2014-15 school year.

If implemented, other new housing developments which aren’t occupied yet could find their assignments changed if they’re located near crowded schools.

Laura Evans, senior director of student assignment, told school board members last week that her office is regularly notified of new housing developments. She said that if the assigned schools for a new unoccupied housing development can’t handle the projected number of new students, they’d come to the board requesting an assignment change.

Wake is no longer using the term “spot nodes” because the use of nodes is being phased out.

Evans said that Southerlyn in Cary, Traditions at Heritage Wake Forest and Walnut Terrace in Raleigh were identified as three examples of the kinds of new subdivisions that Wake is facing.

Click here for a handout that includes stats on the three developments and assignment maps.

Located in west Cary, Southerlyn’s website boasts that it’s “in one of the most sought-after school districts in the area.”

Evans said Southerlyn was chosen because occupancy will occur in August and the development, which has 108 lots, is assigned to Mills Park Middle School, which has an enrollment cap. Southerlyn is recommended for reassignment to Salem Middle School.

Evans is also recommending reassigning Southerlyn from Highcroft Drive Elementary to Turner Creek Elementary to provide calendar consistency. Some Highcroft families have publicly urged the school board to spot node out the new subdivisions being constructed near the school.

How long the new Southerlyn assignments would remain the same is unclear. New schools will provide some relief, such as the expected reassignment of 300 Brier Creek children to the closer Pine Hollow Middle School when it opens in 2016. But whether it means in the long run that Southerlyn would stay at Turner Creek and Salem, go back to Highcroft and Mills Park, or go to the new schools is uncertain.

What seems to be more of a long-term solution is the recommendation to move the new phases of Traditions at Heritage Wake Forest from Jones Dairy Elementary and Heritage Middle to Richland Creek Elementary and Wake Forest Middle. Evans said in the future she’s looking at recommending that the area north of N.C. 98, including Traditions, go to Richland and Wake Forest.

Traditions is projected to have more than 700 lots that produce 284 elementary school students, 114 middle school students and 129 high school students. With Jones Dairy capped and Heritage Middle recently off a cap, Evans said Traditions moved to the top of the list.

Richland Creek was chosen because the permanent building is opening in August, which will result in an expansion of the base. The base was kept small while students use the modular campus at the DuBois Center.

Evans said she’s not currently recommending reassignment of the section of Traditions that’s already occupied. There are 21 students there.

Walnut Terrace is being proposed for a change for a whole different reason. Staff is recommending changing the assignments from Olive Chapel Elementary, West Cary Middle and Green Hope High to Washington Elementary, Ligon Middle and Enloe High.

While located close to Washington Elementary near downtown Raleigh, the Walnut Terrace families were bused for diversity to western Wake. But that was before the public housing project was torn down and rebuilt by the City of Raleigh.

Now scheduled for occupancy in August, the new Walnut Terrace is projected to have far fewer students than before. For “increased operational efficiency,” Evans is proposing changing the assignments to closer schools.

The board may discuss the issue more at Thursday’s student assignment seminar. At some point, Evans is also supposed to bring back to the board a list of other future housing developments in western Wake that could also see assignment changes.

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