Wake Ed

Wake County weighs bus service for students who don't want to return to uncapped schools

How far should the Wake County school system go to continue providing bus service for students who want to stay at their current school rather than switch to the school they were capped out of this school year?

In addition to proposing enrollment caps for 20 schools for this fall, administrators proposed Tuesday lifting the caps now in place at Underwood, Wiley, Farmington Woods, Fuller and Joyner elementary schools, Hilburn Academy and Garner and Heritage high schools.

This means that once the cap is gone for the 2014-15 school year, any students who were sent to overflow schools because of the cap can go to their base school. They can choose to stay at their overflow school but, depending on which school they’re at, they may lose their bus service.

Wake County school board members want to see if they can extend that transportation option to all those overflow students affected by the uncapping of the eight schools.

When students were capped out of elementary and middle schools for this school year, they were given three overflow choices.

One choice wad on the same calendar as the capped school. The other two choices were on a different calendar, called their calendar-option schools. All three choices came with transportation.

Under the current staff recommendation for the eight schools losing their caps, Wake would only continue to provide bus service to the students who want to stay at the calendar-option overflow schools.

For instance, students capped out of Farmington Woods Elementary, which is on the traditional calendar, could request Kingswood Elementary if they wanted the same calendar. But if they wanted a year-round calendar, the two calendar options were Adams and Oak Grove elementary schools.

If the staff recommendation is followed, only the students who want to stay at Adams and Oak Grove would keep their bus service if they don’t want to go to Farmington Woods this fall.

Laura Evans, senior director of student assignment, explained it’s a matter of transportation efficiency. The district provides bus service to families choosing their calendar option. But Wake wouldn’t normally run a bus to the overflow choice that’s on the same calendar.

It’s likely many of the overflow students would want to go to their base school because it’s probably closer to where they live. But some students who are comfortable where they’re now at might want to stay. The ability to keep their bus service could affect their decision.

Board members were concerned about how dropping bus service might affect rising fifth-graders and rising seniors who would be entering the final year at their current school.

The school board is expected to vote on the capping plan on Feb. 18. By then, staff will provide information such as how many students were capped out of the eight schools and what grade levels they’d be at this fall.

Based on the info, the school board might direct staff to extend bus service to all those students.