Cary News

Wake schools considers enrollment caps for 9 schools in 2015-16

Enloe High School, Apex Middle School and Cary Elementary School are among nine overcrowded schools that Wake County school administrators have identified for possible limits on enrollment.

In a briefing for the school board’s facilities committee Wednesday, school planners also suggested keeping enrollment caps in place at 10 other schools, including Holly Grove Elementary and Apex High, during the 2015-16 school year. The planners’ early assessment of changes the board might make also identifies 10 schools where enrollment caps could be lifted.

Even as a forthcoming student assignment plan for the next school year seeks to fill new schools and find seats for a growing student population, some schools remain overcrowded, especially in western and northern Wake County.

Children in families who move to a neighborhood where their school is capped must attend schools that have more space, but are farther away from their new homes.

Christina Lighthall, Wake schools senior director of long-range planning, said the list of schools for action is not final. Staff members are reviewing updates on schools that are currently capped and looking at principals’ requests for relief.

“If we can avoid capping, we want to do that, bottom line,” she told board members.

Committee members also asked staff members to consider new ways to limit enrollment with modified caps, rather than a hard-and-fast cap policy.

“We don’t have a one-size-fits-all county,” board member Jim Martin said after the meeting.

He said the traditional cap may be especially difficult for students from transient families.

“Our turbulent or transient population is the one that ends up getting shifted around, and yet this is the population that probably needs the most stability,” he said.

The board members’ ideas included partial caps and shifting the dates for when caps take effect so that more families can attend certain schools.

School board Chairwoman Christine Kushner said it is also important to make sure overflow schools, where students go if their nearest school has an enrollment limit, are prepared to handle the new students.

“Those overflow schools feel pretty significant impact from the transience,” Kushner said. “And I think that’s a downside of capping that we have to be very cognizant and sensitive to.”

One surprise to board members was the news that Apex High may still have an enrollment cap even though Apex Friendship High will open next year. Many students from Apex High will be assigned to the new school.

Apex Friendship begins to address the overcrowding at Apex, but more relief is expected when Green Level High, another new western Wake high school, opens in several years.

“It’s getting some help now from Apex Friendship, but the big hit is probably going to be the second high school,” Lighthall said.

The full school board will consider the enrollment caps at a Dec. 2 work session, with a vote expected Dec. 16.