Wake County school board drops some students from assignment plan

Lesley Nager raises her hands in the air after speaking about the Brier Creek community during the Wake County student assignment hearing Tuesday, November 3, 2015 in Cary, N.C.
Lesley Nager raises her hands in the air after speaking about the Brier Creek community during the Wake County student assignment hearing Tuesday, November 3, 2015 in Cary, N.C.

More than 130 northern Wake County students found out Tuesday they won’t have to change middle schools next year, but other families left the school board meeting unhappy with the new student assignment plan.

During a one-hour meeting Tuesday, the Wake County school board agreed to not move 138 students from Wakefield and West Millbrook middle schools to the new Pine Hollow Middle School in northwest Raleigh. But board members said they couldn’t agree to the other changes that families had requested to the staff’s plan to fill schools for the 2016-17 school year.

“We were able to make some adjustments,” school board Chairwoman Christine Kushner said at the work session. “I do appreciate that staff was able to respond to some concerns.”

The change tentatively approved Tuesday would reduce the size of the plan to 3,482 students. The board is scheduled to officially approve the plan on Dec. 1.

School assignment staffers say the majority of the moves are needed to fill five new schools opening in the growing school system. The plan is also supposed to help accomplish other goals, such as putting family members on the same calendar and avoiding schools that are too full or too empty. People seeking more information can go to to view and comment on the plan.

The Democratic majority on the school board has been trying to avoid the sorts of large-scale moves that have provoked parental anger in past years. In the mid- to late-2000s, Wake reassigned as many as 10,000 students a year for various reasons, including diversity.

Multiple changes have been made since the first draft was presented in August. Much of the opposition this year has come from families in North Raleigh and Wake Forest who are balking at being reassigned to two new schools.

One of staff’s goals is to have year-round elementary schools feed into year-round middle schools to keep families on the same calendar. But some families in the assignment area for Pleasant Union Elementary, a year-round school in North Raleigh, say they want to stay at traditional-calendar middle schools. They were slated to go to Pine Hollow Middle’s year-round schedule.

Staff presented four options Tuesday for accommodating the Pleasant Union families.

The option picked by the board will have Pleasant Union families who are assigned to West Millbrook Middle keep it as their base school. If they want a year-round middle school they can apply to Pine Hollow.

In addition, Pleasant Union families assigned to Wakefield Middle will keep it as their base school, with Durant Road Middle being the year-round school they can apply to attend.

But these staff-recommended moves opposed by some parents were backed by the board on Tuesday:

▪ Move Mills Park Middle students to West Cary Middle;

▪ Move Holly Grove Elementary students to Oakview Elementary and make Holly Springs Elementary as the year-round calendar option;

▪ Move Leesville Road Elementary students to Pleasant Grove Elementary;

▪ Move Mills Park students who live in the Brier Creek section of northwest Raleigh to Pine Hollow Middle and make Leesville Road Middle the traditional-calendar option.

“I don’t see much leeway,” Kushner, the board chair, said after the Leesville Elementary discussion. “We don’t have many options.”

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