Wake Ed

Changes to Alston Ridge Elementary School’s calendar on table

Students at Alston Ridge Elementary School in Cary walk to class in August 2014.
Students at Alston Ridge Elementary School in Cary walk to class in August 2014. aspecht@newsobserver.com

The Wake County school board could make a decision soon on both the calendar at Alston Ridge Elementary School and the middle school that will open on the Cary campus in 2019.

Alston Ridge Elementary is a multi-track year-round school while the adjoining middle school that will open in three years is scheduled to use a traditional calendar. This would typically give the school board a little time to decide whether to put both schools on the same schedule so families won’t have a calendar mismatch between their younger and older siblings.

But student assignment staff want the school board to provide some direction this year on Alston Ridge Elementary’s future schedule because it will impact what calendar choices are provided to families assigned to Hortons Creek Elementary School opening in August.

Hortons Creek is scheduled to open on a traditional calendar so, as part of Wake’s long-standing practice, families will be given up to two different year-round schools to request if they want a calendar change.

The first draft of the 2017-18 student assignment plan had Alston Ridge Elementary as a year-round calendar choice for Hortons Creek. But with Alston Ridge potentially switching to a traditional calendar by 2019, staff are now considering whether to make Turner Creek Elementary as the calendar option instead.

“We can go ahead and choose a calendar option now,” Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore told the school board on Tuesday. “But if we make changes to the calendars of any of the existing schools, then what we’re doing is changing that calendar option again within a couple years after having made an initial change.”

There is precedent for the Alston Ridge situation. Student assignment staff are recommending that River Bend Elementary School in Raleigh switch to a traditional calendar to match the schedule of the adjoining River Bend Middle School opening in August.

School board members responded Tuesday by pointing to the other issues that would need to be answered before giving feedback on Alston Ridge Elementary School’s calendar.

School board member Bill Fletcher questioned the need to continue designating specific schools as calendar options. He said there’s very likely a different way to allow families to apply to a year-round school.

School board member Susan Evans said the board can’t treat the calendar for Alston Ridge Elementary as an isolated decision.

“We need to know that there’s enough capacity in the area now that White Oak Elementary is on board and Hortons Creek is coming next year and Alston Ridge,” Evans said. “If we had all three of those on traditional, is that going to work?

“Of course we know there are some other year-round schools in the area that have some extra capacity. But I think we have to know the answer to those questions before we can make the decision about what we’re going to do with the calendar for the middle school and then that plays into what we need to do with this elementary calendar option.”

School board member Christine Kushner mentioned how she and fellow board member Zora Felton recently met with parents who send their children to the multi-track schedule at Alston Ridge, Carpenter and Morrisville elementary schools. Kushner said the parents were looking for a more proximate year-round middle school and were assuming that the middle school by Alston Ridge Elementary might open on a year-round schedule.

Kushner cited how Pine Hollow Middle School in Raleigh opened in July on a year-round schedule to meet the needs for families who wanted that option. Pine Hollow is the only school from the current or future building program scheduled to open on a year-round schedule.

“I think there is some fuller discussion that we as a board need to make before some final decisions can be made,” Kushner said of Alston Ridge.

Issues about the student assignment plan, including Alston Ridge, are scheduled to be discussed at Monday’s school board student achievement committee meeting. Those issues will also be discussed at the board’s Oct. 18 work session.