Cary, N.C. — The Wake County school board voted Tuesday to accommodate the transportation needs of 470 students who chose not to switch to a new school provided by the choice-based assignment plan and to, instead, be grandfathered into their old school.
In a 6-3 vote, the board approved a measure to provide transportation to those students if at all possible or to offer them a seat at a school closer to home.
"Children need the opportunity to be transported to school," said board Chair Kevin Hill.
The transportation policy for pre-assigned students now reads: "WCPSS shall provide transportation, when it can be provided with adjustments to existing routes, to all rising sixth and ninth grade students currently receiving district transportation who are pre-assigned without transportation for 2012-13 school year or offer that student a seat in one of the schools on his/her proximity choice list with transportation."
Board members Christine Kushner, Susan Evans and Jim Martin voted against the resolution because, they said, it doesn't go far enough to promise transportation for every student in the school system.
"This is their assignment. (For us) to say we will not provide transportation is unacceptable," Evans said.
Martin pointed out that 80 percent of the 470 students in question are from the district's lowest-performing nodes.
John Tedesco agreed with Martin that the students affected are from the some of the highest need areas, but said that mandating school system staff to provide buses to every student regardless of assignment would be too costly.
"We need to do everything we can for these kids," he said. "I do not think we need to mandate it with a $2-million price tag."
Martin argued that the costs of transporting all students should have been considered when the new plan was developed.
Superintendent Tony Tata, however, jumped to the plan's defense and pledged that "we will take care of every kid on this list."