Cary News

Revised student assignment draft draws anger from western Wake parents

Larry Elmore tells Laura Evans, the senior director of student assignment for Wake County schools, that he’s upset his son will have to attend Apex Friendship High School when it opens next year during a community meeting at Apex High School on Oct. 14.
Larry Elmore tells Laura Evans, the senior director of student assignment for Wake County schools, that he’s upset his son will have to attend Apex Friendship High School when it opens next year during a community meeting at Apex High School on Oct. 14. aspecht@newsobserver.com

They had written complaints in emails, on the Wake County school system’s website and on index cards collected by school officials.

But parents from Apex and Holly Springs still didn’t feel like their concerns about the most recent draft of a 2015-16 student assignment plan were being heard. So they raised their voices Tuesday night during a community meeting at Apex High School, at times interrupting and pointing fingers at school officials.

About 300 people attended the meeting, where school officials tried to explain their reasoning behind the second draft of a student assignment plan for next year.

The school system plans to open three new schools next year. Two of them – Apex Friendship High School and Scotts Ridge Elementary School – will be in Apex. To fill Apex Friendship, the school system is reassigning some families currently assigned to Apex High and Holly Springs High.

Parents from those schools argued Tuesday that they should be allowed to stay at their current schools.

Deborah Elmore said she worried that her son, who would be reassigned from Apex High to Apex Friendship High, would have a harder time getting into college because his involvement in some school activities will be disrupted.

“I just want the option to stay and we’ll provide our own transportation,” Elmore said. “They keep talking about pieces of data. Our children are not pieces of data.”

Residents of Holly Springs neighborhoods Arbor Creek and Bridgewater, who are currently assigned to Holly Springs High, argued that it didn’t make sense for them to drive twice as far to Apex Friendship.

Laura Behnke said she can stand on her front and back porches “and see other neighborhoods that will stay assigned to Holly Springs High.”

“They cherry picked neighborhoods in Holly Springs to go to Friendship High,” Chris Deshazor said.

Some parents said they thought it was unfair that the school system allowed families in the northern part of the county to stay at their current schools when it opened Rolesville High School, but the same didn’t apply for Apex Friendship.

Laura Evans, Wake’s senior director of student assignment, said none of the high schools that Rolesville drew from had an enrollment cap.

Evans said officials need to make sure that Apex Friendship has a full sophomore class to help relieve crowding at surrounding high schools. She pointed to Apex and Holly Springs – two of the three high schools that would lose students to Apex Friendship – that already have enrollment caps. Next year, she said staff will propose a cap on the third high school – Panther Creek.

With the exception of Rolesville High, Wake has historically not allowed rising sophomores to grandfather out of newly opened high schools.

“We’re doing our best to try to provide compromise, but we also have a job to do,” Evans said.

Parents still weren’t happy in at least one case where Evans said the district compromised.

More than a dozen parents from the Haddon Hall subdivision in Apex showed up wearing red to protest the district’s decision to change their base school from traditional-calendar Baucom Elementary to year-round calendar Salem Elementary.

District planners said they wanted to create “calendar unity” with year-round Salem Middle School, which Haddon Hall families already feed into.

District planners said they compromised by allowing families in Haddon Hall to enroll at Baucom as one of their two option schools. But parents worried that students who would want to attend Baucom in the future wouldn’t be able to.

Araz Shibley said she decided to enroll her kindergartner in private school because of the instability the school system is creating. She attended the meeting to emphasize the importance of stability to school leaders.

“It affects our property value,” she said. “People aren’t gonna want to buy in our neighborhood if they know they’ll have to go to a year-round school.”

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