Wake County’s newest student assignment plan could lead to some Cary students attending four different schools in the next four years, producing a level of family instability that school leaders acknowledge is a concern.
Wake County annually moves students to fill new schools, with families in fast-growing areas being more likely to have their children change schools. But parents at Mills Park Elementary in Cary have been especially concerned about how some current fourth-grade students could be moved to the new Hortons Creek Elementary in 2017, attend Mills Park Middle in 2018 and be moved again to a new middle school opening in 2019
On Tuesday, staff will present the third draft of the 2017-18 student assignment proposal that includes two options for dealing with the concerns raised about the Mills Park fourth-grade students. But even in the best-case scenario, some students would go to three different schools in four years.
Staff is recommending that the reassigned fourth-grade students be allowed to request transfers in 2019 to “grandfather” at Mills Park Middle for seventh and eighth grades instead of being moved to the new middle school. Board policy for newly opening middle schools normally allows only rising eighth-grade students to grandfather.
Grandfathering requests are automatically granted by the district. But families have to provide their own transportation to get the transfer, and not all families are able to do so.
In another option, which is not backed by staff, the Mills Park fourth-grade students who are moved to Hortons Creek would be kept together in the same sixth-grade team at Mills Park Middle in 2018. They’d all move together in 2019 to the new middle school that will be built next to Alston Ridge Elementary.
This kind of instability has happened before, such as when some students at Highcroft and Green Hope elementary schools attended four different schools between the 2007-08 and 2010-11 school years. But since then, school leaders have become more sensitive to the issue of providing stability for families.
Staff has been working on a plan largely focused on filling three new schools opening in 2017. Changes made since the first draft was presented in September include replacing Alston Ridge Elementary with Turner Creek Elementary as the new year-round calendar option for families assigned to Mills Park Elementary.
But what has not changed is the recommendation to move Blackstone at Amberly and Cary Park families from Mills Park Elementary. Administrators say moving those children will help reduce crowding at the school.
A public hearing on the plan is scheduled to begin at the school board meeting Tuesday about 6 p.m. The board is expected to vote on the plan Dec. 6.