Cary, N.C. — Wake County school board members and the public will get their first look Tuesday at a revised student assignment plan that, school system leaders say, will link specific schools to every address in the district.
The proposed changes, for the 2013-14 school year, will be unveiled at the Board of Education's 5:30 p.m. meeting.
In June, the school board voted on a directive to change the current "controlled choice" plan so that students would, in part, be assigned to a school or schools within a "reasonable distance" from where they live.
Under the changes that are expected to be outlined Tuesday, each address in Wake County will be assigned a "base" elementary, middle and high school.
All new families, as well as families who move to a new address within the county, will be assigned to a base school.
Parents, however, will have the option to stay at the base school or rank among a list of other schools where they would prefer their children to attend.
Students in school this year will be allowed to stay in their current school, if parents wish. If that's not the base school, they can choose the base school, if there's room.
"It really does combine the best practices of those we just implemented last year and previous plans and best practices we've seen around the nation," Superintendent Tony Tata said Monday.
Tata and a team of school system staff worked last year to implement the current student assignment plan, which moved away from a longstanding practice of busing students for socio-economic purposes.
Critics of the “diversity” plan complained, in part, that it didn't provide stability to families. Those of the new plan were concerned that it didn't adequately address the needs of students in low-performing schools.
And although it was designed to give parents more input in where their children go to school, many parents likened it to a lottery and said it didn't work for their families. Local real estate agents also worried it would deter home sales in the area because parents couldn’t be sure where their children would go to school.
"It answers a lot of questions for a lot of families in Wake County in a very positive way," board member Debra Goldman said Monday. "Of course, there's not a plan, I don't think, (that) would be completely everything that matches my wish list, but this plan comes close."
She said she supports the address-based component but has concerns about how the district will help low-achieving and under-capacity schools.
"I don't want to see balancing working out again where students end up being bused across the county," she said.
Board member Jim Martin said he hopes the new plan will take student achievement into account – something he claims the current plan only worsened.
"The choice plan still is not a stable plan by any stretch of the imagination, and in fact, when you look at demographics that we see happening on this plan, you see more racial isolation, more economic isolation, more student achievement isolation," he said.
"We need to allow choice to be possible where there is capacity, and we also need to be very careful to look at demographic distribution across the county to make sure we don't have any form of isolation," he added.
Tata said he expects the plan will also help with transportation issues that the district has been working to fix since traditional-calendar schools started last month.
Parents have complained about buses being late or not arriving at stops.
"I think anytime you have a base plan that is more predictable, transportation is more predictable," Tata said.
Public hearings on the proposed plan will start next week, and the school board is scheduled to adopt a final plan in late October.
The following public hearings have already been scheduled:
- 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 24 at North Garner Middle School, 720 Powell Drive, Garner
- 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 26 at Leesville Road High School, 8409 Leesville Road, Raleigh
- 11 a.m. on Sept. 29 at Lignon Magnet Middle School, 706 E. Lenoir St., Raleigh
- 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 at Panther Creek High School, 6770 McCrimmon Parkway, Cary
- 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 8 at Rolesville Middle School, 4700 Burlington Mills Road, Rolesville