The second draft of the Wake County school system’s student assignment plan for the 2015-16 school year aims to accommodate more families in Apex and Cary but doesn’t offer relief to some families at Holly Springs High.
Wake County school system officials say more students in western Wake can attend schools of their choice under the new proposal released Tuesday. The new draft of the assignment plan includes several changes families requested since the first proposal was released in August.
Parents can weigh in at the second of four community meetings Tuesday, Oct. 14 at Apex High School. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.
One more draft will be presented in November along with another public meeting. A final vote by the school board is expected in December.
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In August, school system officials released a first draft of a plan that is intended to fill new schools, reduce crowding at existing schools and reduce the number of families with children on different calendars.
Western Wake County is one of the areas most affected by the assignment plan. Two of the three schools opening next year – Apex Friendship High School and Scotts Ridge Elementary School – will be in Apex.
The first draft drew more than 4,000 responses on the district’s website, ranging from complaints to praises.
Some of the feedback helped district officials discover where they had made unintentional changes, said Laura Evans, Wake’s senior director of student assignment.
In several cases, the first draft of the plan assigned students from the same neighborhoods to different base schools.
The second draft of the student assignment plan unifies neighborhoods so those students are assigned to the same base schools. They include Bella Casa, Brookstone, Charleston Village, Dogwood Ridge, Oak Hall, Sugarland Run and Whitehall Village.
“We’re trying to keep from splitting neighborhoods,” Evans said.
In some cases, Evans said, the changes parents had requested were so minimal, they were able to accommodate them, such as allowing the Waterford Green and Waterford East neighborhoods in Apex to stay at Penny Road Elementary School.
In other cases, the board made concessions on previous efforts to reassign the area.
The first draft reassigned students in the Haddon Hall subdivision from Baucom Elementary, on a traditional calendar, to year-round Salem Elementary to match with year-round Salem Middle. Middle schoolers from Haddon Hall already are assigned to Salem Middle.
Some parents asked the district to allow their kids to stay at Baucom. To compromise, assignment planners agreed to allow Baucom as an enrollment option for Haddon Hall – but not as the neighborhood’s base school.
Haddon Hall resident Francine Shafeek said she is glad assignment planners responded to the community’s request.
“However, the community is still largely disappointed that Baucom was not assigned as our base school ...” she wrote in an email. “The school has long been an extension of our community, and having Baucom as an option still does not guarantee future students a spot.”
The second draft also calls for the district to:
• Drop plans to have Laurel Park Elementary School students feed into Lufkin Road Middle School and Olive Chapel Elementary School students feed into Salem Middle School.
• Allow MacArthur Park families in Cary to have Davis Drive Elementary and Middle schools as their traditional-calendar options.
• Allow the 27 current freshmen in Apex High School's Academy of Information Technology, who could be reassigned to Apex Friendship High, to stay at the school, but without bus service.
The district plans to hold more community meetings and collect more comments online. Administrators said there could be more changes by the time the third draft is presented to the school board in November.
The second draft of the assignment plan drew mostly positive comments from school board members on Tuesday.
“I hope the public sees how far (school assignment staff members) are drilling down and ... that they’re listening,” school board member Kevin Hill said.
Susan Evans, who represents parts of Apex and Cary on the school board, said she wants the school system to provide transportation to families who choose to stay at Laurel Park Elementary even though Salem Elementary is their new base school.
“I’m not quite sure how we address that,” she said. “I think we would be fair to try to figure out a way that we can.”
Meanwhile, the plan doesn’t make any changes for freshmen at Holly Springs High School who want to be exempt from attending Apex Friendship High when it opens next year.
Holly Springs High School currently has an enrollment cap due to crowding.
Evans, the assignment director, said the data “didn’t support” accommodaing those parents’ requests.
The decision didn’t sit well with Kate Steiman, whose daughter is in the ninth grade at Holly Springs High and will be assigned to Apex Friendship High next year.
Steiman and her daughter live in the Arbor Creek neighborhood in Holly Springs, which is four miles from Holly Springs High School. Apex Friendship High is seven miles from their house.
She wished district planners had compromised and allowed the neighborhood’s rising ninth- and tenth-graders to attend Holly Springs High if they provide their own transportation.
“But we’re not getting any concessions,” Steiman said. “We feel like the red-headed stepchild of the assignment plan.”
T. Keung Hui contributed to this report