Education

Don’t send us to more-distant schools, Wake families plead. Will it make a difference?

Carter Brady, a fifth-grade student at Mills Park Elementary School, urges the Wake County school board on Sept. 4, 2018 in Cary, N.C., not to move his neighborhood to different schools for the 2019-20 school year.
Carter Brady, a fifth-grade student at Mills Park Elementary School, urges the Wake County school board on Sept. 4, 2018 in Cary, N.C., not to move his neighborhood to different schools for the 2019-20 school year. khui@newsobserver.com

Western Wake County parents pleaded Tuesday to school leaders to not move their children next year to schools that are further from where they live.

Parents around Wake County have been lobbying for changes since the first draft of the 2019-20 student enrollment plan was released Aug. 21. The outcry has been particularly loud from families in western Wake, a fast-growing part of the district where a proposal to reduce overcrowding could result in moving some students to more distant schools.

“Parents value proximity,” said Jennifer Jackson, a Cary parent whose child faces being sent to a more distant middle school. “It’s the one thing that parents feel most strongly about.”

Jackson was among more than 20 speakers at Tuesday’s school board meeting, backed by a room full of people wearing orange-colored shirts, who hope to get the assignment plan changed when a second draft is presented Sept. 18. Parents can provide public comment online at wcpss.net/enrollmentproposal.

Much of the plan involves filling four new schools: Green Level High and Alston Ridge Middle in Cary, Parkside Elementary in Morrisville and Southeast Raleigh Elementary. The first draft also recommends opening Alston Ridge Middle and Parkside Elementary on a year-round calendar instead of on a traditional calendar.

The biggest group on Tuesday represented the Cameron Pond neighborhood in Cary, which is slated to be reassigned from Mills Park elementary and middle schools to Carpenter Elementary School and Alston Ridge Middle School.

Student assignment staff proposed moving the neighborhood to help relieve crowding in Mills Park. But several Cameron Park residents questioned the decision to move them as they said they live within a mile of Mills Park.

“If you move one of these communities away from their base schools, you threaten to undermine the chemistry that exists,” said Patrick Brady, a Cameron Pond parent. “It’s not just about the schools. It’s about the communities that exist and patronize the schools.”

Speakers pointed to how Cameron Pond had provided land to the town of Cary to build the Panther Creek Greenway that will run from their neighborhood to the Mills Park schools. Speakers said moving their community goes against the school district’s goal of trying to create walkable schools.

“Allow and encourage our children to experience the mental and physical health benefits of walking and biking to school,” said Andrew McNaughton, a Cameron Pond parent.

Another contingent of speakers represented families who face being moved from Davis Drive Middle School in western Cary to East Cary Middle School. Parents questioned going from a school near where they live to one that’s 7 miles away.

“Please allow students that can walk to school (to) let them do that,” said Brandon Bryce, a parent whose children could be moved to East Cary Middle. “We shouldn’t force our children to ride a bus for up to 90 minutes a day. Time is so valuable for them.”

Some parents tried to show firsthand the effects of the assignment plan by having their children speak to school board members.

“Please do not reassign us to a new school,” said Aya Bashir, a third-grade student at Mills Park Elementary. “Please, please, please keep our neighborhood at Mills Park.”

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