Cary, Morrisville leaders want more dialogue with school board on crowded schools

08/21/2014 10:36 AM

08/21/2014 10:37 AM

Leaders in Cary and Morrisville want to be part of the conversation as the Wake County school board mulls its options for reducing overcrowding at schools in western Wake.

The school board placed enrollment caps on four schools in the area for the 2014-15 school year – Alston Ridge Elementary, Cedar Fork Elementary, Mills Park Elementary and Mills Park Middle.

Residents have asked the Cary Town Council to block requests for new residential developments until overcrowding is reduced, while real-estate agents have complained that the caps are hurting home resale values.

The school district doesn’t plan to open new schools in Cary or Morrisville until the 2016-17 school year. So the school board is now considering converting Alston Ridge and the Mills Park schools to multi-track, year-round calendars.

With so much going on, officials from Cary and Morrisville agreed during a meeting Tuesday night that they’d like to open up more of a dialogue with the school board.

While Cedar Fork is the only Morrisville school that is capped, Mayor Pro Tem Liz Johnson noted that many Morrisville students attend Cary schools.

“So it’s our problem too,” she said. “It matters to all of us.”

Cary councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said the towns and the school board have “room for improvement” when it comes to communication.

“I think the next step would be to set up a joint meeting,” Robinson said. “We’ve held them before, and I’ve found them generally helpful.”

School board members have said they’d welcome such conversations.

“The good news is they’re very open to working with us and communicating with us,” said Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht.

But the groups would likely disagree on ways to ease crowded schools.

Robinson has suggested that enrollment caps do more harm than good and has asked the school system to produce data showing that caps are the best method for preserving a healthy educational environment.

“They have not given us any data showing (the caps’) true effectiveness,” Robinson said.

While Robinson declined to say whether she’d prefer calendar changes to enrollment caps, school board member Susan Evans outlined her position on the proposed calendar changes during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

“I just want to go on record as saying I’ve been vocally opposed to converting all of the schools in that west Cary corridor to multi-track, year-round,” she said. “I believe it’s important that we maintain some traditional options for families in that area west of (N.C.) 55.”

Morrisville councilman Michael Schlink said the school board does a good job of handling the issue considering the board is “much more politicized” than his Town Council.

But he hopes they can find a solution to the overcrowding problem soon.

If they don’t, Schlink said, the board is sure to hear from Morrisville residents who say, “I live right across the street (from a capped school) ... and you’re gonna bus my kids all the way down the road?”

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