Wake County parents warned Wednesday night that shuffling their children to different schools next year could have negative impacts that kids carry the rest of their lives.
The new student enrollment plan would move thousands of kids to different schools for the 2019-20 school year, particularly affecting families in western Wake. With the final vote scheduled for Nov. 20, 31 parents and students used Wednesday’s school board public hearing to make sometimes emotional arguments against reassigning students.
“Over the next few years as our pediatricians start seeing more and more cases of self harm and other effects, I want this board to recognize your role in doing it through the disruption you’re creating in their everyday life,” said Paul Kouroupas, a Cary parent whose child faces reassignment. His comments were met with applause from the crowd.
Much of the plan involves filling four new schools: Green Level High and Alston Ridge Middle in Cary, Parkside Elementary in Morrisville and Southeast Raleigh Elementary. The plan also recommends opening Alston Ridge Middle and Parkside Elementary on a year-round calendar and converting East Cary Middle to a traditional calendar.
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Some changes have been made since the first draft of the plan was presented by student assignment staff in August. Staff added more changes Wednesday to calendar-application schools for Swift Creek Elementary, Yates Mill Elementary and Dillard Drive Middle.
Student assignment staff also proposed that students whose calendar-application school is being changed would be allowed to “grandfather” at their current school if they give up bus service and provide their own transportation.
The school board approved its own changes on Wednesday, including allowing current students at Green Hope and Hortons Creek elementary schools to stay instead of being reassigned to Parkside Elementary. But they’d have to provide their own transportation if they stay.
But other students being reassigned to Parkside, including everyone from Cedar Fork Elementary, would get Pleasant Grove Elementary as their traditional-calendar application school. They would get neighborhood bus service if they take this option.
The board also agreed that current sixth-grade students being reassigned to Alston Ridge Middle can stay at their current school for two years if they have an older sibling who is also not leaving the school. Staff had only recommended letting the younger sibling stay for a year at the current middle school with the older sibling.
The change came after several parents at Davis Drive Middle urged the board on Wednesday to either not move them to Alston Ridge Middle or expand who could grandfather.
“You’re creating more instability than is necessary, and it’s going to affect our children negatively,” said Tatia Markland, a Davis Drive parent.
But some of the most-requested changes from parents are still included in the reassignment plan.
The plan would still move students from the Cameron Pond community in Cary out of Mills Park middle and elementary schools. Families argue that they live within walking distance of the Mills Park schools, which assignment staff say are too crowded.
An effort Wednesday to postpone the Cameron Pond move for a year fell short when board member Lindsay Mahaffey couldn’t get enough support. Several Cameron Pond speakers urged the board to reconsider because they said moving their small community wouldn’t do much to relieve crowding at Mills Park.
“Please impact as few students as possible,” said Brenda Nichols, a Cameron Pond parent.
Board members also discussed but didn’t act Wednesday on requests for changes from parents at Reedy Creek Middle and East Cary Middle. Staff want to move hundreds of students out of Reedy Creek Middle to free up magnet seats and to fill up East Cary Middle.
Speakers said too many students are being moved, which could cost Reedy Creek funding for teaching positions if it can’t replace the students who are leaving. Staff said there’s a plan to increase marketing for the school.
“The numbers don’t indicate a rush to take so many of us away,” said Jenn Smith, a Reedy Creek parent.
Several speakers from East Cary Middle urged the board to leave the school on a year-round calendar. Staff say the school isn’t attracting enough students on a year-round calendar, but parents said the problem is other issues such as the condition of the campus and the early start time.
“You just had an election,” said Leslie Douglas, an East Cary parent. “You all have to remember the first time you chose to run for school board. It wasn’t to redistrict students or uproot them.”
At the request of school board member Keith Sutton, staff will look at whether East Cary can simultaneously operate both a year-round calendar and a traditional calendar.
“We’re clearly hearing parents from two schools asking us to keep them the way they are,” said school board chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler.
Families who had fought the plan to open Parkside Elementary on a year-round calendar said Wednesday they’re no longer asking for it to open on a traditional calendar. But they asked the board to give closer traditional-calendar options than Pleasant Grove.
“There is not an element of family life that is not disrupted by an hour commute one way,” said Anne Robottt, a Morrisville parent whose child could be moved to Parkside.