The Wake County school board’s solution for dealing with overcrowding at Mills Park elementary and middle schools is another sign of how school leaders prefer using measures that shift the burden of dealing with growth on newcomers as opposed to existing families.
As noted in today’s article, the school board nixed two options that would have eliminated the enrollment caps for the 2015-16 school year for the two schools by either converting them to year-round or by adding 21 trailers. By only adding five trailers, caps will remain in place at Mills Park and even expanded for the middle school.
The use of enrollment caps and spot nodes – now called preassignment of future housing developments – are ways that Wake can try to shift the impact of dealing with overcrowding on new families who haven’t yet arrived in Wake. For instance, 20 schools are under an enrollment cap this school year.
At Tuesday’s school board work session, school board member Bill Fletcher said he had looked at the different options for Mills Park, including capping and spot noding.
“I kind of came to a conclusion on this one that the capping was perhaps the most fair strategy,” Fletcher said. “What developers don’t know is really what their takedown schedules are going to be. They go to the town and say ‘I’m going to build 70 houses a year for four years’ and they may wind up building a 100.
They may wind up building 40 and sitting there with 30 of them at the end of the year. So I would not want to be in a situation where we preassign five developments to a more distant school and then take the cap off of Mills Park and the next five developments pile into Mills Park. I don’t think that’s an equitable deal.
It seems that the capping strategy – which while it may be a little more expensive from a transportation standpoint and a logistical standpoint – is probably the closest thing to an adequate public facilities ordinance – although I don’t think APFs are the right way for us to go – that our current governmental structure allows, is that we don’t have enough room in this school for these children. Therefore we’re going to make a space available elsewhere and it’s done on a per-family basis as opposed to a neighborhood or what not.
I still think spot noding has its place. I’m just not sure this is the right place given the fact we’re looking at a four-year time frame (before the opening of Alston Ridge Middle School).”
During the regular meeting, school board member Susan Evans explained how capping was the lesser of evils than the other options.
“I do want to stress that these are stopgap measures,” Evans said. “I don’t think any of us felt like the calendar conversion was a positive thing. We didn’t feel like adding lots and lots of modulars was a positive thing.
We don’t feel like having schools overcrowded and existing under cap status and all these other things is a positive thing. But we think this compromise option will be the lesser of the evils and will help us survive the next couple of years while we’re waiting for some additional school capacity to come on board.”
The caps are predominantly in western and southwestern Wake, drawing concerns from elected officials in those towns, as shown in this Cary News article.