Western Cary families urged the Wake County school board on Tuesday to let them stay at Mills Park Elementary despite recommendations from school administrators to move them out next year to reduce the school’s overcrowding.
School administrators presented Tuesday the third draft of the 2017-18 student assignment plan, which is largely focused on filling three new schools: River Bend Middle and Rogers Lane Elementary in Raleigh and Hortons Creek Elementary in Cary. But what has generated the most attention since the first draft was unveiled in September is the recommendation to move families from the Blackstone at Amberly community and the northern part of Cary Park from Mills Park Elementary to Hortons Creek.
During Tuesday’s public hearing on the new assignment plan, multiple speakers questioned the accuracy of the district’s numbers and said letting their children stay at Mills Park would have a minimal impact on the school. Fan Liang said families felt like they’re being kicked around like a soccer ball.
“This proposal will not solve any problems but only sacrifice us,” Liang said.
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Wake annually moves thousands of new students to fill new schools and to reduce crowding at existing schools. Student assignment staff haven’t said how many students are affected by the new plan.
Administrators say that their plan will reduce crowding at Mills Park Elementary from 151 percent of its capacity this year to 120 percent next year. Staff say the crowding percentage would be 135 percent if the Blackstone and Cary Park students aren’t moved.
“Our kids are more than just numbers,” said parent Jason Hillenbach. “They’re kids. They’re not numbers.”
School board members agreed to a change Tuesday that would allow some current Mills Park fourth-grade students to avoid going to four different schools in the next four years. Board members told staff that those students would be allowed to grandfather at the school next year instead of going to Hortons Creek and grandfather in 2019 at Mills Park Middle instead of going to a newly opening middle school.
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.
Time is running out for parents to get additional changes. The board has scheduled a work session for Nov. 29 to discuss potential changes before a vote on Dec. 6.
“This is agonizing for you and we know that,” school board Chairman Tom Benton said to parents. “It’s agonizing for us, but we have tried to do everything possible with staff included to try to make sure that we have all of the data to make the absolute best decision that we can make.”
Charter-like school flexibility sought
The Wake County school board voted Tuesday to ask for state permission to allow 10 low-performing schools to operate more like charter schools.
School leaders want the State Board of Education to give the 10 schools the same flexibility that charter schools have to set their calendars and spend state dollars. Barwell Road and Walnut Creek elementary schools in Southeast Raleigh already received that flexibility, called the restart model, this school year.
The schools that want to use the restart model next school year are Bugg, Fox Road, Millbrook and Poe elementary schools and Carroll and East Millbrook middle schools in Raleigh; East Garner Elementary and East Garner Middle in Garner; East Wake Middle near Knightdale and Wendell Middle School.