Education

Wake County makes changes to student assignment proposal

Students crowd a stairway as classes change at Heritage High School in Wake Forest on Sept. 10, 2015. Wake County presented a proposed assignment plan and one part of a former plan was to reassign part of Heritage High School's students to Rolesville High School, which upset parents.
Students crowd a stairway as classes change at Heritage High School in Wake Forest on Sept. 10, 2015. Wake County presented a proposed assignment plan and one part of a former plan was to reassign part of Heritage High School's students to Rolesville High School, which upset parents. cseward@newsobserver.com

Some of the Wake County families who complained the most loudly during the past two months about a new student assignment proposal found out Tuesday that their lobbying worked.

Meanwhile, others still face being shifted to different schools next year.

The release of the first draft of the 2016-17 assignment proposal in August led to nearly 1,500 online comments, with many requesting changes. The winners in the second draft presented Tuesday include parents who don’t want their students to go to Rolesville High, while losers include families who are fighting being moved out of Leesville Road Elementary in northwest Raleigh.

“We can’t do everything the parents wanted,” said Laura Evans, Wake’s senior director for student assignment. “But some of the feedback we were able to incorporate.”

Wake County school board member Zora Felton, who represents the Leesville area, has been the object of lobbying to get the plan changed. She broke into tears as she supported moving the Leesville children to the new Pleasant Grove Elementary in Cary.

”It is not that far from Leesville Elementary,” Felton said of Pleasant Grove.

Felton’s comments drew a backlash from Sherry Gentry-Gasper, PTA president at Leesville Elementary, who said that reassigning the students would take away too many PTA volunteers.

“I don’t think we have a champion on the school board to really understand what the impact is to us,” she said. “I don’t think this sets anyone up for success.”

Evans said it’s too soon to say how many students are affected. But Wake annually reassigns thousands of students to fill new schools and to keep up with the growth that brings about 3,000 new students a year to the district.

One of the assignment goals is to keep schools from being too crowded or having too many empty seats. That led in August to the recommendation to move students from crowded Heritage High in Wake Forest to under-enrolled Rolesville High.

But Heritage parents complained that Rolesville High is farther away and isn’t as strong academically as Heritage. Evans said that after school board members also interceded, staff took another look at the numbers and decided to leave the students at Heritage.

“The growth in Rolesville’s base is going to be pretty astronomical compared to the the growth at Heritage,” Evans said.

Evans said that Heritage is overcrowded because the school has so many transfer students, a number that Wake can reduce over time. Board members said they need to review the district’s transfer policy.

Some other changes in the second draft include plans to:

▪ Make Pine Hollow Middle in northwest Raleigh the assigned school for students who live in Pleasant Union Elementary’s attendance area;

▪ Make Pine Hollow and Sycamore Creek Elementary the assigned schools for the Chestnut Oaks community;

▪ Keep Stough Elementary and Daniels Middle in Raleigh the assigned schools for the Hamptons at Umstead community;

▪ Make Sycamore Creek and Pine Hollow the year-round options for families west of Creedmoor and Strickland roads, with those on the east getting Pleasant Union and Durant Road Middle as their calendar options;

▪ Drop the movement of students from Conn Elementary School in Raleigh to Underwood Elementary;

▪ Make Holly Grove Middle in Holly Springs the year-round option for families in Fuquay-Varina and Lincoln Heights elementary schools’ attendance areas.

Like the Heritage parents, the Leesville parents were vocal as they pointed out that the families who would move to Pleasant Grove live close to Leesville. They said that removing these middle-class families would increase the percentage of low-income students at Leesville, widening the poverty imbalance between it and nearby Sycamore Creek.

Evans said administrators had to leave the Pleasant Grove moves in the plan to fill the new school and to relieve crowding at Leesville.

But Evans said they responded to the Leesville parents by moving three high-needs North Raleigh neighborhoods from Leesville and York Elementary into Sycamore Creek and Pine Hollow. This is one of the few instances in the proposal in which assignment staff plans to move students to balance income and achievement levels at different schools.

“This will help Sycamore Creek and Pine Hollow meets the needs of these children,” Evans said.

Parents will get two more weeks to suggest changes before the final draft is presented to the school board on Oct. 20. The board will hold a public hearing and work session before voting on the plan on Dec. 1.

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

Find out more about assignment proposal

Wake County families can go to http://bit.ly/1Khjsgp to view and comment on the second draft of the student assignment proposal. Public information sessions will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday at Scotts Ridge Elementary School in Apex; Monday at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh; and Oct. 15 at River Bend Elementary School in Raleigh.

  Comments