Wake Ed

Wake County mother warns about applying to magnet schools

Martha Rothchild helps her son Brennan Rothchild, 8, check his book bag for snacks before driving him to Olive Chapel Elementary School Thursday, May 5, 2016.
Martha Rothchild helps her son Brennan Rothchild, 8, check his book bag for snacks before driving him to Olive Chapel Elementary School Thursday, May 5, 2016. jhknight@newsobserver.com

An Apex family says its experience should be a cautionary tale that it may not be as easy as it seems to get out of a seat in a Wake County magnet school.

Martha Rothchild successfully applied in January to get her 8-year-old son Brennan into a magnet seat at Kingswood Elementary School in Cary for the 2016-17 school year. Although she was ultimately successful in getting Brennan dropped from attending Kingswood, Rothchild said the Wake County school system made the process harder than necessary..

“I can’t see us requesting a magnet school ever again,” Rothchild said. “For us, this has been a real learning experience of the process.”

Rothchild said she didn’t realize Brennan would lose his spot at his current school – Olive Chapel Elementary – once he was accepted into Kingswood.

Families who apply during the February early transfer period to return to their base school will have their request automatically approved. This allows families to give up their magnet seats.

But in Rothchild’s case, she applied in February to keep her third-grader at Olive Chapel. The problem is that Olive Chapel went from being the family’s base school to their calendar-option school when Scotts Ridge Elementary opened in August.

Rothchild’s early transfer request was denied and she was told to wait until the hardship transfer period in May to submit another request.

Laura Evans, Wake’s senior director of student assignment, said she couldn’t discuss the specifics of Rothchild’s case. But Evans said that when a family makes a mistake in the early transfer period they’ll sometimes correct it then or tell families to apply again during the hardship transfer period.

“We’re not unreasonable people, but we have guidelines here,” Evans said.

Rothchild listed five possible schools in her hardship transfer: Olive Chapel, Scotts Ridge, Turner Creek, Baucom and Salem elementary schools. Rothchild applied on the first day of the application period on May 2 and received a rejection letter on May 3 telling her she could appeal to the school board.

The rejection put Rothchild in a difficult situation. She had initially applied to Kingswood because she was interested in the school’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focus. But Rothchild said that after the magnet application period her work schedule had changed so it would be too difficult for her to drive Brennan to Kingswood in the morning.

After getting the rejection letter, Rothchild said she and her husband decided to start saving money to send Brennan to a private school this fall. Rothchild said she felt like her son was being held hostage by being required to go to Kingswood.

But the following day on May 4, Rothchild was told by Wake she would be able to keep Brennan at Olive Chapel. While Rothchild is happy with the outcome, she said that other parents should learn from her experience and think carefully before applying to a magnet school.

“I still think educating parents on this process needs to be done because I had a lady at that magnet school tell me if this doesn’t work, maybe you should consider applying to a charter,” Rothchild said.

Wake’s hardship transfer period runs until Monday.