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Wake Officials Aim to Keep Schools Diverse, Balanced

Posted June 7, 2007

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— When Judge Howard Manning ruled that year-round schools must be voluntary, Wake School Board members said it resulted in diversity in some schools being thrown out of whack.

Of the 2,626 students who decided to opt out of year-round schools, 1,595 of those are lower income.

For more than 20 years, Wake Schools have been committed to balancing schools to avoid high concentrations of poverty. School officials do this by measuring the number of children who receive free and reduced lunches.

They try to keep the number of students who receive free and reduced priced lunches under 50 percent in each school. They say this practice allows all schools to thrive.

Still, many parents feel school assignments in Wake County are more chaos than calculated.

One of the biggest gripes is school assignments that aren't closest to home.

A year and a half ago, the Riverside Community in north Raleigh complained that the school system’s diversity policy lacked common sense in their case. The neighborhood was within walking distance to Wildwood Elementary but got an assignment to Fox Road Elementary instead.

Wildwood was overcrowded, but parents felt the middle class neighborhood was moved to add diversity to Fox Road.

Chuck Dulaney, Wake schools’ director of growth management, said he understands some of the frustration, but added that the policy is working.

“Whereas most school systems have winner schools and loser schools, that affects where people are willing to live and send their kids to school,” Dulaney said.

The Town of Garner has watched its balance shift and isn't happy about it.

With several schools nearing a poverty rate of 60 percent, a grass roots group is lobbying the school board to live up to its goal of diversity.

The Greater Garner Advocates said they feel too many lower income students are bused into Garner. They see too many Garner families opting for year round or magnet schools elsewhere.

As a former teacher, Judy McCreery believes in the Garner schools and she’s keeping a close eye on every move the school board makes.

“We want to see a good thing get better, and we’re going to continue to monitor what the county does with Garner schools,” McCreery said.

The school board found spots for all 2,626 students who opted out of year-round.

That was a challenge in some of the Garner schools where they were trying to avoid crowding and high levels of poverty.

When trying to find options for students who wanted out of Vance, Rand, Timber Drive and West Lake elementary schools, the board initially looked at Smith Elementary in Garner. That would overcrowd Smith, which also has the challenge of a free and reduced lunch percentage of 68 percent.

The board decided Wednesday that some of the students opting out of those elementary schools would go to Smith while others would move to Olds, Wiley and Fuller, which are about 10 miles away.

They encountered the same struggle with North Garner Middle. Initially, the board looked at moving students who wanted to opt out to East Garner Middle. Instead, they decided Wednesday to move some students to East Garner while others would move to Martin or Daniels Middle School.

The Greater Garner Advocates said they were pleased that the board took the time to find a solution with more balance.


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  • applesmith Jun 8, 2007

    Oh by the way has anyone asked our teachers how we feel NO!!!! Everyone just assumes we like the year round track system. Most of the teachers I know will have to adjust there personnal lives to educate your kids. go figure jmaggionic

  • applesmith Jun 8, 2007

    How many lower income people do you see complaining about the year round calender. In some cases parents with lower incomes use the school to there advantge. And during the summer months the kidds are with family or at home with a older brother or sister. TO MR OR MRS jmaggionic I teach for a living. So I know what parents are like poor,middle and rich. The poor fight for what they get the middle class want moore and the rich pay someone to get it for them. So when it comes to children or students age,race,color or gender should not play into it. But some well todo upper middle class female parents with nothing todo all day is the reason for this whole mess.

  • djofraleigh Jun 8, 2007

    Having diversity helps with having diverse neighborhoods.
    When students are assigned schools far away, some parents will not be able to get to the PTA and other meetings, meaning less involvement. The system is growing too fast. The county commissioners control -in this case "don't control" growth.

  • party pooper Jun 8, 2007

    I don't care about diversity, I want to see quality schools and the over crowding handled....and I don't even have kids yet. I will likely leave Wake County when they are close to school age unless something is done to make things much better.

  • OpinionatedGuy Jun 8, 2007

    Applesmith: You seem to think that lower income or "poor" people can afford a computer, use it and stay home from work to express there opinion? Hmmm... Are you poor? or do you fall into the middle class category? if so, why would you state your comments? Are you married? Probably not, because if you were your wife would tell you what to think... LOL

  • applesmith Jun 8, 2007

    No matter what Wake County Schools do,they are not going to make everyone happy. If parents do not like it they can move. After all who asked the people creating all the uproar to move here. You Dont see ant lower income familes causing a fuss over this they cant afford to miss work. All I see on TV is middle class house wives who dont work saying it will mess up our schedule. GO TO WORK OR GET A LIFE. Then you will see how the other half does it.

  • lizard Jun 8, 2007

    Where the racism? PArents don't want their kids on the road two hours every morning because they could get killed doing that and it's not necessary.

    Public schools need to be trashed and home schools installed as the norm.

  • scal Jun 7, 2007

    I'm glad we are traditional. We've got a great Summer all planned out and really looking forward to it.

  • Jane1 Jun 7, 2007

    This makes me so angry. Because some parents are so hell bent on staying on the traditional calendar, my child's school is now going to be overcrowded. (BTW, I would have been fine is our school had to go YR) We cannot have trailers, to help accomidate more kids, because of land space issues at our school. Shame on these parents making thier "problem", now everyone elses!!!

  • poohperson Jun 7, 2007

    They preach socio economic diversity, not racial diversity. Other words they look at income level, most assume a lower income level means the children belong to a minority group (for lack of a better term), but that is just not always true. Your kids will always pick up bad habits elsewhere, but the trick is addressing them and not giving in.