Wake Ed

Cary families lobby Wake County to attend Mills Park schools

The school mascot greets arriving students and parents to Mills Park elementary and middle schools on Sept. 11, 2014.
The school mascot greets arriving students and parents to Mills Park elementary and middle schools on Sept. 11, 2014. cseward@newsobserver.com

Western Cary families are making it clear how much they like the Mills Park schools as they speak out on the Wake County school system’s new student assignment proposal released this week.

The majority of online comments on the first draft of the 2017-18 assignment proposal deal with either Mills Park Elementary School or Mills Park Middle School. These commenters either want to remain at the popular but crowded Mills Park schools or are requesting to go there.

The majority of the comments about Hortons Creek Elementary School have come from Cary Park families who could be moved from Mills Park Elementary to the new school. Parents have complained that the assignment proposal will split Cary Park students between different schools and result in children going to a school that’s further from home.

“As has already been mentioned by several of my neighbors, this first proposal has drawn an arbitrary and artificial line through the Cary Park neighborhood,” Jason Hillenbach wrote on the district’s online forum. “We can all appreciate that student reassignment is always a difficult process, but I encourage the WCPSS and its board to make decisions based on reason instead of looking purely at a map.

“Community is extremely important to all of us – whether that be within a neighborhood or school.”

The Cary Park parents are suggesting revising the plan to make Carpenter Fire Station Road the border between the attendance zones for Mills Park and Hortons Creek.

A part of the forum designed to take feedback about proposed calendar changes has been taken over by Southerlyn residents. They’ve created an online peition asking to be reassigned from Apex and Salem middle schools to Mills Park Middle.

The school board had voted in May 2014 to reassign Southerlyn from Mills Park Middle due to the school’s crowding. At the time, Southerlyn was targeted because it was new and the idea was to give preference to current neighborhoods assigned to Mills Park.

Two years later, Southerlyn has more residents and parents say it’s unfair that they can’t go to Mills Park when the adjoining communities are assigned to the school. The Southerlyn families also say they live closer to Mills Park than to Apex or Salem middle schools.

“It does not make sense for new neighborhoods that haven't started construction to be assigned to Mills Park when Southerlyn students must pass these neighborhoods in Apex to reach their middle school assignment,” Rachael Higdon wrote on the online forum. “We are the only neighborhood with a different base school west of 540.”

It’s unclear how much the school system can and will address the concerns of the Cary Park and Southerlyn families in the second or third drafts of the assignment proposal.

Both Mills Park schools are under enrollment caps because of overcrowding. According to school district figures, Mills Park Elementary is at 118 percent of its capacity this school year. Hortons Creek is supposed to provide relief when it opens in August 2017.

Mills Park Middle is not expected to get significant relief until the August 2019 opening of Alston Ridge Middle School.