Wake County Schools

Wake schools assignment data shows parents want proximity

Posted August 16, 2011 10:18 p.m. EDT
Updated September 8, 2011 9:16 p.m. EDT

— Wake County parents overwhelmingly want their children assigned to schools close to home, Superintendent Tony Tata told the Board of Education during its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday evening.

He supported his claim with the results of a recent online test-drive of the choice-based student assignment plan he proposed in May. 

That plan would allow parents to pick from a variety of schools based on their address. Tata said the data shows that most parents are likely to choose the school nearest their home.

In March, Tata appointed a task force to tackle the controversial issue of student assignment after the scrapping of a decades-old busing for diversity program prompted bitter community debate and divisiveness among school board members.

The task force unveiled two competing assignment models in May and encouraged parents to sign on to the Wake County Public School System's website, type in their address, take a look at their options and make a trial-run selection. More than 21,000 parents participated, which helped the task force predict what final choices would look like under the new plan, task force leader James Overman said.

But if every parent selects a school based on proximity, the board will have two major hurdles to overcome – capacity and cost of transportation.

School board vice-chair John Tedesco said he is especially worried about Garner High School, which already has a high number of mobile classrooms to accommodate its burgeoning enrollment.

"An excess of 2,000 additional students in a school built for 1,600? That's not right," Tedesco said.

Tata, his staff and the board all agreed that they need to now focus their attention on feeder patterns, magnet schools and designated achievement schools, but felt some relief to be making progress. Tata said he hopes to bring a final plan before the school board by October.

"We are headed in the right direction," Tedesco said. "You saw the survey, parents wanted proximity (and) that's everything we've been fighting for for two years."

Board member Keith Sutton praised the thoughtfulness of the plan.

"(We're) trying to come up with the best possible solutions and trying to make as many people happy or satisfied as possible," he said.