Education

Look out: Your child’s Wake County middle school could be changing

Two sixth-grade students at Fuquay-Varina Middle School look over their schedules to see if they have any of the same classes in this file photo. Fuquay-Varina Middle is among several schools affected by a proposal to reassign students to put more families on the same calendar from elementary school through middle school.
Two sixth-grade students at Fuquay-Varina Middle School look over their schedules to see if they have any of the same classes in this file photo. Fuquay-Varina Middle is among several schools affected by a proposal to reassign students to put more families on the same calendar from elementary school through middle school. News & Observer file photo

Large numbers of southern and southwestern Wake County middle school students face being moved to different schools over the next few years as part of an effort to put more families on the same calendars for elementary and middle schools.

Wake County school assignment staff on Tuesday presented options for changing the middle schools that seven elementary schools feed into, so that fewer families will be on different school calendars. Because of the late date and the large number of changes involved, school board members tentatively agreed to phase in the changes over multiple years rather than doing it all at once in 2018.

Wake County school board Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler explains why more students may change schools to try to put families on the same calendars for elementary and middle school.

Staff will look to make middle school changes for the 2018-19 school year for students who are coming from three elementary schools in Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs. Middle school changes for students from four other elementary schools could be phased in over multiple years and potentially begin in the 2019-20 school year.

“We asked them (staff) to go back and align calendars,” said school board member Roxie Cash. “That was a very important thing, and this is doing that.”

But the proposal wasn’t warmly received from some parents who complained to the school board Tuesday that the enrollment proposal will disrupt too many families.

“Asking families to uproot their schools and change calendars is a lot,” said Heather Balsley, a parent from Holly Springs. “Asking them to additionally change their middle school to align to a new calendar that we did not ask for is unacceptable.”

Wake reassigns students annually because of growth. The district is projected to grow by 2,846 students a year over the next seven years. No specific figure was presented Tuesday of how many students would be affected by the new plan.

Many of those affected would fill four new schools: South Garner High and Bryan Road Elementary in Garner, Apex Friendship Middle in Apex and Buckhorn Creek Elementary in Holly Springs. But student assignment staff are also recommending changes to help fill some existing schools, to help elementary schools meet new smaller class-size rules going into effect in 2018 and to balance student performance at some schools.

But last month, school board members raised concerns that the plan leaves many families with mismatched school calendars in elementary and middle schools. Families can find it difficult doing things such as taking vacations if one child is on a year-round calendar and the other is on a traditional calendar.

Student assignment staff responded Tuesday by presenting two different options. Option 1 recommended by staff affects four elementary schools, while Option 2 included all those changes plus moves at additional elementary schools.

“These are pretty significant changes moving lots of students,” Glenn Carrozza, senior director of student assignment, said of Option 2. “But it does work towards aligning calendars K-8 for families.”

Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore said that staff didn’t think they could go ahead with Option 2 this year. She said they’d like to do Option 2 over multiple years starting potentially as soon as the 2019-20 school year.

Board members talked about whether they should delay using either option in this year’s plan.

“This is kind of late in the process to be moving,” said member Lindsay Mahaffey.

But most board members agreed something should be done this year.

“I think we should move forward with Option 1,” said board member Bill Fletcher. “Postponing it won’t make it any easier, and I believe Option 1 has been put together very well.”

Board members told staff they’d like to use Option 1, minus changes proposed for Middle Creek Elementary School families. Those changes that could begin in the 2018-19 school year are:

▪ Northeastern part of Buckhorn Creek Elementary’s attendance area would change from Fuquay-Varina Middle to Holly Ridge Middle.

▪ Western part of Buckhorn Creek Elementary’s attendance area would change from Holly Grove Middle to Holly Ridge Middle.

▪ Southern part of Buckhorn Creek Elementary’s attendance area and a small area near U.S. 401 would change from Holly Grove Middle to Fuquay-Varina Middle.

▪ Eastern and southern areas of Herbert Akins Elementary’s attendance area and two small areas west of the school would change from Fuquay-Varina Middle to Holly Grove Middle.

▪ Northern area of Holly Springs Elementary’s attendance area would change from Holly Ridge Middle to Lufkin Middle.

▪ Southern area of Holly Springs Elementary’s attendance area would change from Holly Ridge Middle to Holly Grove Middle.

A community meeting will be held next week on the new proposed changes at Buckhorn Creek, Herbert Akins and Holly Springs elementary schools.

Several board members said they like Option 2, so staff will look at middle school changes for families at Banks Road, Middle Creek, Olive Chapel and West Lake elementary schools in future years.

Go to www.wcpss.net/enrollmentproposal to see if your address is affected by the plan and to provide online feedback.

The board will hold a work session and public hearing on Nov. 21 before voting on the plan on Dec. 5.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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