The Wake County school system is making progress on catching up with growth, leading to a recommendation Wednesday that enrollment restrictions be lifted at five elementary schools.
Wake places enrollment caps on some crowded schools to restrict newly arriving families from attending. But Wake school facilities staff said Wednesday that enrollment caps won’t be needed next school year at Davis Drive Elementary in Cary, Hodge Road Elementary in Knightdale and Hunter, Walnut Creek and Wiley elementary schools in Raleigh.
Staff also say no new enrollment caps need to be placed on schools next year. The result is that 10 schools are recommended for enrollment caps for the 2017-18 school year, down from 15 schools this year.
“This is in large part due to the coming online of 3,200 to 4,000 seats that are being built down the Highway 55 corridor,” said school board member Bill Fletcher, chairman of the facilities committee. “It’s a result of the funding put forward by the county and approved by the citizens of Wake County that allow us to do this. I will say, ‘Thank you, thank you.’”
Schools recommended to stay under a cap are Cedar Fork Elementary in Morrisville; Fuquay-Varina elementary and high schools; Holly Grove Elementary in Holly Springs; Panther Creek High and Mills Park elementary and middle schools in Cary; Apex Middle; Enloe High in Raleigh and Heritage High in Wake Forest.
New families who move into the attendance area of a capped school could be denied seats if a specific enrollment total is reached. In that situation, families who move in after the cap went into effect are offered seats at schools that are farther away but have more space.
“We don’t like to cap a school, but we will have to if we cannot come up with any other solutions,” said Christina Lighthall, Wake’s senior director for facility planning.
When seats open up, students who are capped out are given the option to stay at their overflow school or go to the capped schools.
For instance, 182 students are capped out of Mills Park Elementary, including one child who hasn’t gotten in since moving in January 2015. The school has been capped since December 2012.
Enrollment caps are a means for the school system to try to shift the burden of dealing with growth, which brings around 2,000 new students a year, onto newcomers instead of existing families. But newcomers often complain when they can’t go to the school near their homes.
Caps are often lifted after new schools open in an area to provide enough additional seats.
“We are starting to see some relief with new schools coming online,” Lighthall said.
Rogers Lane Elementary will open in Raleigh next year, so staff say a cap is no longer needed for Hodge Road and Walnut Creek elementary schools. Walnut Creek Elementary in Southeast Raleigh has been under a cap for all but one year since it opened in 2011.
The facilities committee recommended the list of 10 schools, which will go to the full school board Tuesday.