A decision to split an advanced program over two middle schools has upset parents and students, but school board members signaled Thursday night that they may have to live with the move.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Learning Environment for Advanced Programming, or LEAP, is a program for students in grades four through eight who demonstrate mastery of the curriculum that is two or more grade levels above their peers.
The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in the program are housed at Smith Middle, but the CHCCS staff has decided to move some of the students to Phillips Middle next year to alleviate overcrowding at Smith.
Fourth- and fifth-graders in LEAP attend Seawell Elementary.
Superintendent Tom Forcella said Thursday night at the Board of Education meeting that the staff looked at several options for easing the overcrowding at Smith and that needs of all the district’s students must be weighed.
“Whatever the solution,” Forcella said, “we knew it would be one that, as any redistricting we go through, we’re going to get feedback because people don’t want to move their children from a program where they have friends.”
But LEAP parents complained that they were left out of the process.
Tina Coyne Smith said Thursday night’s discussion by the board was the first time parents had gotten any explanation.
“The current solution is awful,” she said.
In addition, parent and student complaints about the move include:
• Students who have already made an extra school move to be a part of LEAP will have to change schools again, some attending their fourth school in as many years to be a part of the program.
• All 13 rising sixth-graders moving to Phillips will be boys, which could discourage interested girls from joining.
• The two middle school programs will not be equal.
The plan will not eliminate overcrowding at Smith, simply reduce it. At 107 students over capacity now, the LEAP split would still leave Smith 58 students over capacity next year.
Some, though, including board member Annetta Stokes Streater saw a bright side to the move, hoping that spreading the program to an additional school could help racially diversify it.
“If we have fallen short in terms of identification,” she said, “or if we have fallen short in terms of consistency of the delivery of the curriculum, it’s an opportunity to make improvements.”