Education

With Wake schools assignment policy settled, panel begins to look into the details of a plan

Posted June 8, 2010 3:25 p.m. EDT

School Bus

— The Wake County schools' Student Assignment Committee poked its fingers into the mucky bucket of details Tuesday as members began hashing out the priorities that they want to drive the process of implementing a community-based plan.

The committee of three board members and a community representative named by each of the nine board members kicked around various goals, but it agreed quickly that it wants to give the district Growth and Management Department ideas for how to draw up some test maps of attendance zones. No one wanted to even test the task of trying to draw zones themselves.

The committee was formed to implement the school board's decision to drop socio-economic diversity from standards for assigning students and to send all students to schools near their homes unless parents apply for them to go elsewhere.

Parents will still be able to apply for magnet schools with special programs or schools with traditional or year-round calendars under the new policy. Figuring out the details and drawing maps for what are called "base-school" assignments is expected to take at least a year.

Ideas for starting points in drawing attendance zones included using high schools and then including feeder elementary and middle schools, using postal ZIP codes, using board members' districts and using the zones that come under each of the district's area superintendents.

John Tedesco, the committee chair and the lading spokesman for the board's push toward community-based attendance, told the group that "keeping some fluidity is important" as the plan evolves.

The largest challenge, members agreed, is drawing zones that have enough schools in them to provide the seats needed to accommodate student choices for year-round or traditional-calendar schools or for special programs. Complicating that are trying to predict population growth and knowing where the district already has acquired land and planned to build schools.

Community members on the panel stressed the need to have predictable feeder patterns from elementary through high school so parents know what to expect.

The school system is about to enter the second year of a three-year plan designed to minimize transfers that have angered parents because of their frequency. Some transfers were to meet diversity goals and some to manage school crowding.

Among goals the committee put on a tentative list Tuesday were:

  • Continuity in feeder patterns from elementary to middle to high school
  • Preventing minority isolation
  • Not having buses drive by nearer schools while taking students to assigned schools
  • Trying to understand what parents consider their "communities,"not just geography
  • Recognizing different priorities that parents hold in different areas
  • Moving as few students as possible to implement the new plan
  • Planning for growth in parts of the county where it's predicted
  • How to incorporate choice schools