Cary, N.C. — While parents were protesting an elementary school reassignment plan Tuesday, the Wake County school board was working with the draft plan and adding 400 students to it.
School officials say they have to make the changes to keep up with growth and to balance economic levels in each school. Parents say it takes students away from neighborhood schools.
Revised numbers that came out late Tuesday afternoon would move 6,800 students, and the school system said 3,800 of those would be getting closer to their homes than they are now. The initial draft of the plan covered 6,400 elementary students,
Superintendent Del Burns said the system is working on a long-term plan to help parents cope. After this year, the district will create a two-year reassignment plan that will help parents plan for the years from fall 2009 to spring 2011.
Parents have protested and signed petitions against the reassignment plan, saying they don’t want their children moved away from their neighborhood schools.
School officials note that half of the students they are moving will go to a school closer to home, and most students across the county go to a school that's within 5 miles of their house. The board said Tuesday afternoon that its plan would move 1,200 students to within a 3-mile radius of their homes from farther away.
Marching together, a crowd of parents from Davis Drive Elementary in Cary protested the reassignment plan that moves 260 students out of that school.
“The reassignment plan will break up the heart of our community,” said parent Sarah Redpath.
Redpath said she wants to avoid reassignment for her three children because Davis Drive is within walking distance of their home. She and other parents are hoping the school board will keep them there.
“We want stability and the ability to be involved in our neighborhood school,” she said.
DeLana Anderson is another parent fighting the reassignment plan.
“Every parent, when your children are being messed with, you feel angry, you feel frustrated. You want what’s best for your child, individually,” she said.
Under the plan, her daughter Morgan would move from Oak Grove to Adams Elementary. She and other parents have started a petition against the reassignment plan.
“I think there’s a frustration that’s being vented on the petition that we’re not being heard,” said parent Katie Sommers.
School board member Ron Margiotta represents the parents whose students go to Oak Grove. He says the reason for the move is simply to keep the socioeconomic scales balanced.
“You know my opinion: it’s foolishness,” he said. “We’re disrupting schools. We’re disrupting children. We’re disrupting families. We’re disrupting communities to the benefit of no one.”
Margiotta also said the bus route to Adams Elementary will be longer. The parents say that is taxpayer dollars wasted.
“Millions of dollars of tax dollars to bus our children further away from their communities is not a solution,” Sommers said.
School Board Chair Rosa Gill cautioned parents that the plan is far from a done deal. She encouraged parents to present the board with "constructive alternatives."
Reassignment is always a tough balancing act, school officials said, especially with surging enrollment numbers, new schools to fill and a commitment to keeping schools diverse.
“The growth has just hamstrung us. We’re swamped with growth,” Burns said.
The board was expected to hear a draft of the reassignment plan Tuesday. After that, it will hold public hearings and work sessions to hammer out the final reassignment plan, which will be voted on in February.