Residents of a West Raleigh apartment complex are questioning a policy that has banned a school’s bookmobile but allows ice cream trucks on the property.
Teachers from Lacy Elementary School load up their cars once a week with donated books to read with students in the neighborhoods where they live, including the Grand Arbor Reserve complex off Lake Boone Trail. The goal is to keep kids reading during the summer months so they don’t lose what they learned during the school year.
During a stop at the complex last month, Lacy volunteers were told by apartment management staff that they couldn’t return. A company policy forbids any event at the complex unless it is sponsored by the corporate owner, Landmark Apartment Trust.
“This new policy serves to protect the interests of our residents and the property owner,” Jeannette Steele, regional director of Landmark, said in a statement. Another company statement praised Lacy for its efforts, adding that Landmark is “exploring other ways to support this very noble cause.”
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Lacy Elementary assistant principal JeLynn Crane started the bookmobile project six years ago. It gives students a chance to read in a group and to borrow books for a week at a time.
Mayra Tifre, who has lived in Grand Arbor Reserve for about seven years and has a rising second-grader at Lacy, said she has seen her daughter’s reading skills improve with the bookmobile. She wants the weekly visits to continue.
“It’s very important because the children don’t have anywhere else to read,” Tifre said.
Many families who speak Spanish and other foreign languages live at Grand Arbor Reserve, said Debbie Derbyshire, a retired teacher assistant from Lacy. Several families are refugees, she said.
Derbyshire moved to the apartment complex, where monthly rent ranges from $720 to $920, to help residents who don’t speak English or need other assistance.
Banning the bookmobile is bad for the community, she said.
“It just really didn’t seem like an appropriate response to me,” Derbyshire said. “(The bookmobile) gives these children something to look forward to and gives them an outlet which is healthy and educational.”
Derbyshire and other Grand Arbor Reserve residents said they see ice cream trucks come by the property at least once a day. They don’t understand why an ice cream truck is different than a bookmobile.
The bookmobile used to visit three neighborhoods, including Grand Arbor Reserve, said Lacy Elementary principal Candace Watson.
One of the apartment complexes has been shut down, and the school hasn’t found a replacement location, Watson said. Without Grand Arbor Reserve, the project is only serving students at the Raleigh North apartments in the eastern part of the city.
The bookmobile has limited opportunities to reach Grand Arbor Reserve residents if teachers can’t go onto the property, Watson said. Some sites are nearby, but they would require students to cross Lake Boone Trail, a major road that leads to Interstate 440.
“As far as other options, there really aren’t any,” Watson said.
Lacy Elementary School, on Lake Boone Trail, has more than 700 students. The school typically exceeds Wake County and statewide averages for student performance in reading.
56 percentage of students with limited English skills at Lacy Elementary School who were proficient in reading during the 2013-14 school year
During the 2013-14 school year, 82 percent of Lacy students were proficient in reading. The Wake County proficiency rate was 70 percent, and the statewide rate was 60 percent.
Fifty-six percent of Lacy Elementary students with limited English skills were proficient in reading that year. That was higher than 37 percent in Wake and 32 percent statewide.
Lacy also exceeded average scores in math. In 2013-14, 80 percent of the school’s students were proficient in math, compared with 71 percent in Wake County and 60 percent in North Carolina.
“We’ve seen progress, and the teachers work so hard during the school year to try to help students to make that progress,” Watson said. “But there’s a gap. You can kind of see that there’s evidence that they’ve lost some of that (over the summer).”