Next year, dozens of Wake County year-round students will likely be asked to switch year-round schools to help the state’s largest school district cut transportation costs.
School administrators say the potential changes will streamline bus service for year-round schools and typically allow students to go to a closer school.
The change would help parents such as Amanda Howell, whose 5-year-old daughter, Lily, would get a closer year-round school next year and would no longer be the only elementary school student on a bus with year-round middle school students.
“We wanted year-round, so that’s what we did,” said Howell, whose daughter is a kindergarten student at Durant Road Elementary School in North Raleigh. “I just didn’t expect it to be this crazy.”
According to the school system, Howell’s daughter is one of three students in Baileywick Road Elementary School’s attendance area who attend Durant. Most of the Baileywick students who applied for year-round go to Sycamore Creek Elementary School.
Howell had requested Sycamore Creek, which is 4 miles from her North Raleigh home. She was instead offered Durant, which is 12 miles from home.
Every family now assigned to a traditional-calendar elementary school has two year-round school options.
Laura Evans, Wake’s senior director of student assignment, explained to the school board in August that the second choice was added four years ago because so many requests for year-round schools had been rejected.
But Evans said the school system now has situations in which only a handful of students are making use of some choices. For instance, most of the year-round students living in the attendance area for traditional-calendar Aversboro Elementary School in Garner attend nearby Timber Drive Elementary, with just one child going to Barwell Road Elementary in Southeast Raleigh.
“We’re not running a bus for one student,” Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance, told the board. “But we are having to create a stop for one student that’s out of the way or a bus stop that makes it (the ride) longer. By being able to eliminate that stop, you make the route more efficient.”
Wake has also cited the desire to make bus routes more efficient to drop 116 routes and 4,000 bus stops this year.
As part of the draft 2015-16 student assignment proposal, administrators are proposing eliminating one of the two year-round choices for some elementary schools. Some schools would get new choices.
The elimination of the second choice would affect 117 year-round students – including 86 impacted by the conversion of Wakefield Elementary School back to a traditional calendar – who’d be switched to the other choice. Those students would get bus service if they switched.
Families who don’t want to switch schools could remain where they are but would lose bus service.
In Howell’s case, she’s happy about switching to Sycamore Creek next year. But Howell said that she’s still frustrated about the lack of communication from the school system.
After missing the deadline to register for bus service and waiting six weeks to get a bus stop, Howell said she was surprised to discover that no other elementary school students were on her daughter’s bus. School officials say none of the other Baileywick students who go to Durant ride the bus.
Students from Durant Road elementary and middle schools ride together because their schools are on the same campus and start within 15 minutes of each other and dismiss at the same time. Across the district, it’s not uncommon for students from different school levels to ride together.
Lisa Luten, a Wake County schools’ spokeswoman, said Howell was told that her daughter would be placed in the seat directly behind the driver. But Howell was still concerned and initially adjusted her work schedule to spend two hours a day driving her daughter to and from school.
On Wednesday, though, Howell put her daughter on the bus. After arriving at school, Howell said Lily called her to talk about the ride.
“She seemed really happy now, so she’s staying on the bus,” Howell said. “The bus driver seemed really nice. I wish I had talked with him two weeks earlier.”