The state’s new elementary school class-size limits are causing eight Wake County elementary schools to stop accepting new families even if they move into their attendance areas.
The Wake County school board voted Tuesday to put enrollment caps on Baileywick, Combs, Harris Creek and Sycamore Creek elementary schools in Raleigh; Vance Elementary near Garner; Carpenter Elementary in Cary; Olive Chapel Elementary in Apex; and Willow Springs Elementary.
The new limits go into effect immediately to help those schools keep their enrollments down before next year. Starting next school year, the average K-3 class size will drop to roughly 17 students, compared to 21 students last school year.
“In some cases we have schools that, because of the class-size mandate, we are losing more than a hundred elementary seats in a single school,” said school board member Bill Fletcher. “That causes us to make some tough decisions that are not going to be popular but are necessary in order to meet the state mandate for class size in K-3.”
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Enrollment caps are a way for the school system to try to shift the burden of dealing with growth, which brings around 2,000 new students a year, onto newcomers instead of existing families. But newcomers often complain when they can’t go to the school near their homes.
New families who move into the attendance area of a capped school could be denied seats if a specific enrollment total is reached. In that situation, families who move in after the cap went into effect are offered seats at schools that are farther away but have more space.
Several of the eight newly capped schools have already reached their target. For instance, new families who move into Sycamore Creek’s attendance area after Tuesday will be offered seats at Pleasant Union Elementary.
When seats open up, students who are capped out are given the option to stay at their overflow school or go to the capped school. It’s uncertain when space will be available due to the new smaller class sizes.
In addition to the new enrollment caps, Wake is lowering the enrollment target at two previously capped elementary schools: Cedar Fork and Holly Grove. The new number means it will take even longer for families who are capped out to get into the school.
The new class-size limits are causing Wake elementary schools to make changes such as converting art and music spaces to regular classrooms, putting two classes in the same room and increasing class sizes to more than 29 students in fourth- and fifth-grades.
Other changes include:
▪ Closing 25 elementary schools to new transfer students;
▪ Reducing how many new magnet students are accepted into Combs, Douglas, Hunter, Joyner, Kingswood and Wendell elementary schools;
▪ Reducing how many new year-round students are accepted into Brier Creek, Carpenter, Oak Grove and Sycamore Creek elementary schools.
Wake is also looking at removing 122 transfer students from Jeffreys Grove Elementary, reassigning some elementary students to schools that have space and reducing which students are eligible to be “grandfathered” to avoid having to change schools.