Wake Ed

Wake County to release first draft of new student 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. jhknight@newsobserver.com

One of the most dreaded days of the year for Wake County families has come as parents and students wait for word on whether they may be shuffled to a different school next year.

During Tuesday’s school board work session, staff will present the first draft of the 2017-18 enrollment plan that will list which schools are recommended to have some of their students move. The new plan comes at a time when school board members have asked staff to see what more can be done to promote diverse school enrollments, something that has taken a backseat in assignment plans in recent years.

Most of the moves recommended in the first draft will likely be focused on filling three new schools: River Bend Middle and Rogers Lane Elementary in Raleigh and Hortons Creek Elementary in Cary.

The plan will probably also have recommendations for dealing with under-enrolled schools and overcrowded schools, including those that are under an enrollment cap.

A wild card this year is that the school board has become more concerned that schools are becoming imbalanced in terms of their percentages of low-income and low-performing students.

In response, the board asked staff to expand the impact area for reassigning students if it will help with the student achievement pillar in the assignment policy. In the last few years, staff has tried to narrow the number of schools affected by assignment changes.

Any steps to comply with the board’s request could bring back a “domino effect” that would reduce stability for families. Following the community backlash last decade, stability has been arguably the major focus in assignment plans in the past few years.

The board also asked staff to seek ways to balance diversity in schools in an area, such as when a school has many more low-income and low-performing students than its neighbors.

Once the first draft is released, the public will be able to comment online. After more drafts and more public comment, the final school board vote could come in December.

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