Wake County

Apex residents march to protest Wake schools student assignment plan

Four-year-old Cecily Shibly walks to Baucom Elementary with her mother, Araz Shibly,  Wednesday to protest Wake County’s student assignment plan.
Four-year-old Cecily Shibly walks to Baucom Elementary with her mother, Araz Shibly, Wednesday to protest Wake County’s student assignment plan. aspecht@newsobserver.com

Shawn and Shanna Shearin like that they can walk their two sons to Baucom Elementary School from Haddon Hall, their neighborhood less than a mile away.

But they worry the commute may not be as convenient when it’s time for their 3-year-old daughter to go to elementary school.

Student assignment planners for the Wake County school system are proposing to change Haddon Hall’s base school from Baucom Elementary, on a traditional calendar, to Salem Elementary, which is on a year-round calendar and is about 2 miles away.

Many Haddon Hall parents want to keep their children at Baucom because it’s close and they prefer the traditional calendar.

To emphasize the school’s proximity and demonstrate their frustration with the school system, the Shearins and more than 50 other residents marched to Baucom from the entrance of Haddon Hall on Wednesday morning, carrying homemade signs and backpacks.

“We felt like this would be a good way to get our voices heard,” Shawn Shearin said. “We haven’t been heard so far.”

Parents estimate that 120 Baucom Elementary students live in Haddon Hall. Last month, more than a dozen Haddon Hall residents wore red to a student assignment meeting at Apex High School to protest the decision to make Salem their base elementary school.

They talked to school officials and commented on the district website. But their remarks didn’t sway district planners to keep Baucom as Haddon Hall’s base in the final draft of the assignment plan submitted to the school board this month.

Assignment planners said they have listened and responded to the concerns of Haddon Hall families.

After initially proposing to cut the neighborhood’s ties to Baucom entirely, Laura Evans, Wake’s senior director of student assignment, said the district compromised by allowing Haddon Hall families to pick Baucom as one of two calendar options.

District planners don’t recommend keeping Baucom as the base elementary school for Haddon Hall because the school has 14 mobile units, and “the need to reduce crowding is immediate,” said schools spokeswoman Lisa Luten.

Making Salem Elementary Haddon Hall’s base school would also further the county’s mission to improve “calendar unity” between feeder schools. Salem Elementary feeds into Salem Middle, which is also a year-round school and is already Haddon Hall’s base middle school.

But many Baucom parents who marched Wednesday said they also have a student at Apex Middle School, a traditional calendar school.

Stacy Boxell said she worries that her fourth-grader may have to attend year-round Salem Elementary next year while her seventh-grader is at traditional Apex Middle.

“Baucom’s crowded because people want to send their kids to traditional schools,” she said.

Boxell also worries that her fourth-grader will eventually be assigned to year-round Salem Middle while her seventh-grader goes on to attend one of the local high schools, which all operate on a traditional calendar.

“It just feels like they’re not giving us a choice,” she said. “That’s the problem.”

The district has scheduled a public hearing Nov. 18, and the plan will be discussed again at a Nov. 25 work session. The school board is expected to consider minor changes before approving a plan Dec. 2.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer