Cary News

Proposed school assignment plan would affect western Wake County

Apex Friendship High School is under construction at 7901 Humie Olive Road in Apex and will open for the 2015-16 school year.
Apex Friendship High School is under construction at 7901 Humie Olive Road in Apex and will open for the 2015-16 school year.

Students in western Wake County would be among the most affected by a proposed student assignment plan.

School administrators on Tuesday presented the first draft of a plan for the 2015-16 school year. The plan focuses primarily on filling four new schools, reducing crowding at existing schools and reducing how many families are assigned to schools on different calendars.

Almost half of the 63 schools affected by the plan are in Apex, Cary or Holly Springs.

Most of the reshuffling comes as the county attempts to fill Apex Friendship High School and Scotts Ridge Elementary, both of which will open in Apex in 2015.

Scotts Ridge Elementary, located on Apex Barbecue Road, will draw students from Apex, Baucom, Olive Chapel and Turner Creek elementary schools.

Apex Friendship, which will open on Humie Olive Road for ninth- and 10th-graders, will draw students from Apex, Holly Springs and Panther Creek high schools.

Panther Creek and Holly Springs high schools are overcrowded, and Holly Springs High has an enrollment cap. But it’s unclear how much relief Apex Friendship will provide to those schools.

School officials did not release estimates of how many students would be affected at specific schools. Laura Evans, Wake’s senior director of student assignment, said only a handful of students are affected in most schools.

Some students would be eligible to stay at their current school, while others would not.

Under the proposal, elementary school students would be eligible to stay at their current school if they are rising into fourth or fifth grade or they have an older sibling at the school.

Rising ninth- and 10th-graders who live in the Apex Friendship attendance zone would not be eligible to stay at their current school unless an older sibling already attends the current school.

For example, a student who lives in the Apex Friendship attendance zone but currently attends Holly Springs High wouldn’t be allowed to stay at Holly Springs unless his or her older sibling is an upperclassman there.

Students who opt to stay at their current school would lose bus service.

Administrators said they had to balance letting families stay where they are with making sure new schools are filled.

“It would be fiscally irresponsible to open a new school and not have anyone go,” said Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance.

The assignment plan also tweaks several feeder patterns in western Wake so that elementary school students have an option to attend a middle school with the same calendar.

For instance, students at Baucom Elementary, which is on a traditional calendar, would be eligible to attend Apex Middle school, which is also on a traditional calendar.

Baucom currently feeds into Lufkin Road and Salem middle schools, which are on year-round calendars.

Students at Apex Elementary would feed into Apex Middle rather than Fuquay-Varina Middle.

School calendars

Separate from the assignment plan, the school board is considering whether to convert Alston Ridge and Mills Park elementary schools and Mills Park Middle School to a multi-track year-round calendar.

Such a move would reduce overcrowding and may enable the board to lift enrollment caps, which some have claimed are hurting the local real-state market.

The student assignment proposal is considered Year One of a multi-year proposal that will continue to prioritize school proximity, stability, operational efficiency and student achievement.

The proposal drew praise from school board members, who are expected to approve a plan in December.

A second draft is expected in October.

“We’re asking people to go online and give us their input,” said school board member Susan Evans. “We will make changes along the way, so just let us know your thoughts.”

T. Keung Hui contributed to this report