In a packed room of parents and students, speakers pleaded with the Wake County school board Tuesday to drop their neighborhoods from the 2015-16 student reassignment proposal.
The 18 speakers, mostly from western and southwestern Wake, argued that the proposed shifts in where their communities would attend classes next year would disrupt families and communities, and weaken parental support for schools. Tuesday marked the only public hearing the school board has scheduled before a potential vote on Dec. 2.
“You’re affecting kids’ lives,” said Kate Steiman, a Holly Springs parent. “You’re affecting our small town. We take our village to raise our kids.”
The final draft presented Nov. 4 represents months of work to develop a proposal that focuses primarily on filling three new schools, reducing crowding at existing schools and reducing the number of families with children on different school calendars. The plan mostly affects Apex, North Raleigh and Wake Forest, areas experiencing student growth.
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In prior years, the school system held multiple public hearings during the period between when the final draft was presented to the school board and the board vote.
But school administrators said it was unnecessary to hold multiple board hearings this year because of the new way the assignment proposal was developed. Administrators cited how they’ve received thousands of comments on the district’s website, allowing for two-way interaction that has led to multiple changes since the first draft was presented in August.
There were also four community meetings with staff members in October.
Student assignment staffers say that the proposal affects 2,734 current students, not including rising sixth- and ninth-graders who would begin attending a different middle school or high school than they expected to go to next year.
Of the 2,734 current students, Wake says as many as 1,585 would be eligible for “grandfathering,” in which they could stay at their current school if families provide their own transportation.
In previous years, Wake has reassigned more than 10,000 students annually. Wake has 155,000 students.
‘Pieces in a chess match’
Several parents from the Haddon Hall community in Apex raised concerns that the proposal would shift their base school from Baucom Elementary to Salem Elementary. The parents are also worried that in the future they may not be able to continue sending their children to Apex Middle School.
Jennifer Covington, a Haddon Hall parent, complained that families felt like they were “pieces in a chess match.”
“In southwest Wake County, we don’t want neighborhood schools because we hate diversity or we’re afraid of diversity,” she said. “We love our community. We love our neighborhoods and we love our children. We’re asking for some stability.”
Some speakers from Holly Springs High School balked at being reassigned out of their town to the new Apex Friendship High School.
“You really affect kids when you move them from a school they’re already in,” said Chris Deshazor, a parent at Holly Springs High.
‘Large amount of stress’
Speakers whose children attend Salem Elementary School in Apex questioned why their children would be reassigned to Turner Creek Elementary when that Cary school is slated to send some students to Salem.
“We are essentially swapping schools with another neighborhood of similar demographics,” said Lisa Langley, a Cary parent whose child attends Salem. “Please remember that every time you move these families and neighborhoods to a different school, the result is a large amount of stress and angst for the students.”
School board Chairwoman Christine Kushner said the board will consider the concerns raised by the speakers when it reviews potential changes at a work session next week.
“We’re a growing community with a limited number of seats in some areas,” she said. “That’s a source of frustration to the parents and to the board.”