New students could find it harder to get into more than two-dozen Wake County elementary schools and hundreds of existing students might have to leave to help those schools meet new state class-size limits.
Elementary schools around North Carolina are adjusting to changes that will lower average class sizes from kindergarten through third grade. Classes would be reduced from 21 students last year to roughly 17 children starting next year.
Wake County school administrators proposed Wednesday a set of strategies for 27 elementary schools to get their enrollment numbers down.
Some popular elementary schools such as Combs, Douglas and Hunter could accept fewer magnet students. And elementary schools such as Brier Creek, Carpenter and Sycamore Creek could accept fewer year-round students.
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Thirteen schools could stop accepting requests from new transfer students. Other schools could stop enrolling children whose families haven’t yet moved into their attendance areas.
“These are not because we want to do it,” said school board member Jim Martin. “These are legislative mandate issues.”
Wake is in a bind because the lower state-mandated class sizes will require the district to create space for the equivalent of 9,500 seats, or 14 new schools.
Principals at the majority of Wake’s 113 elementary schools say they can meet the smaller class sizes by taking steps next year such as converting art and music spaces to regular classrooms and increasing class sizes for older children.
“Each of those changes is putting limitations on the effectiveness of our academic program delivery and will affect teaching and learning,” said school board member Bill Fletcher, chairman of the facilities committee, which reviewed the options Wednesday.
But principals at 27 elementary schools say even after using those options they will need more help.
Most of the proposed strategies are designed to keep down the number of newcomers at those schools. For instance, student assignment staff want to place enrollment caps at eight elementary schools: Baileywick, Carpenter, Combs, Harris Creek, Olive Chapel, Sycamore Creek, Vance and Willow Springs.
If a school that’s capped hits a certain number of students, families who move in after a specific date are sent to a school that’s farther away that has more space.
If approved, the new enrollment caps for those eight schools would go into effect this school year and likely would remain in place next school year.
But some current students could be required to change schools too.
For instance, assignment staffers propose moving out the 122 students who transferred in from other schools to attend Jeffreys Grove Elementary.
Hundreds of students who successfully applied to a year-round school or a traditional-calendar school could also be on the move. For instance, staff want to move 101 year-round students from Olive Chapel Elementary to Salem Elementary and 77 traditional=calendar students from Abbotts Creek Elementary to Fox Road Elementary.