Twenty Wake County schools face enrollment limits this fall that could keep newcomers from being able to attend the schools closest to their homes.
Wake school administrators said Tuesday that the schools, spread across the county, are either over capacity or close to being full. If approved by the school board, families who don’t already live in the attendance areas for those schools could be sent to more distant schools which have more space.
“We really worked hard this year to come up with the best of what is not always the most pleasant situation, but it works,” said Laura Evans, senior director of student assignment.
The school board is expected to vote on the plan on Feb. 18.
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Since 1997, enrollment caps have been used to control crowding. But until the last few years, the caps were only used annually on a handful of schools in western Wake or North Raleigh.
Wake typically tries to reduce crowding by reassigning students to less crowded schools. But the school board, on the advice of administrators, agreed to provide families some stability by not reassigning any students for the 2014-15 school year.
For this school year, Wake placed enrollment caps on 17 schools. Administrators said Tuesday that they’re recommending dropping the caps on eight of the schools. Students who were capped out will be given the chance to get into those schools for this fall.
Administrators want to keep the caps on nine schools, however, while adding caps to 11 schools.
If a school hits an enrollment figure specific to each campus, the system will turn away students who later move into the attendance area. The policy exempts families who already live in the school zone but don’t yet have children attending the school.
Evans said administrators will try to be more flexible by seeing whether there are seats open at individual grade levels before telling families they can’t attend a school that has hit its cap.
In the past, families who were capped out were given a choice of three other schools to attend. But Evans said administrators are recommending only two choices: one school on the same calendar as the capped school and one on a different calendar.
“For transportation efficiency, we really need to back off on the three choices,” Evans said.
Also in a change, Evans said that some capped schools with large attendance areas will offer different overflow choices depending on where a newcomer lives.
School board member Susan Evans said the school system should get the capping information out to the public, including real estate agents, as soon as possible.
“We need to make sure the community knows the information before they purchase a home in a particular area,” she said.
Seeking exemptions for reading tests
Also on Tuesday, school administrators said they hope to no longer require all 12,109 Wake third-grade students to take 36 minitests that are part of the reading portfolio process in the state’s Read to Achieve law.
Administrators say the minitests won’t be required for students who scored at least a 442 on a state beginning of year reading test and special education students who will take the EXTEND 2 state reading test. They say they also won’t require the portfolios for students who have already shown proficiency on the district’s CASE 21 tests if the State Board of Education allows those exams to be used to meet Read To Achieve requirements.
If all three groups are exempted, Todd Wirt, Wake’s assistant superintendent for academics, said more than 6,800 students will have already met promotion requirements and not have to attend summer reading camps.
Wake says teachers will have discretion on whether to use the portfolios.
“It’s very sad that this has turned into a political question,” school board Vice Chairman Tom Benton said.