Wake County Schools

Blog: Wake school board talks assignment plan, bus rides, new schools

Posted September 6, 2011 4:00 p.m. EDT
Updated September 6, 2011 6:45 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

Long school bus rides:

The school board disussed concerns about long bus rides and early pick up times for some Wake County students Tuesday. After hearing some public concern about how early some students head to the bus stop, the board wanted an update from Transportation Manager Bob Snidemiller. He told the board the average bus ride time for Wake County students is 16 minutes, but acknowledged there is a small percentage who currently ride for more than an hour and a half, and a handful longer than 2 hours. Snidemiller also said the earliest pick up time for some students is 5:40 a.m. He told the board the bus system is always slower the first few weeks of school, and assured them that time will improve.

Board vice-chairman John Tedesco suggested the school system review the current bus policy to see if it is necessary or possible to change how long students are allowed to be on the bus.

Snidemiller also reviewed what it might take to get all bus rides under an hour. He suggested changing all magnet school bus routes to express stops, or having a central location where students have to come to catch the bus, might be a way to do it. 

Tata says a final student assignment plan will be ready in less than a month:

A final student assignment plan will be ready by the first week in October. In the break bewteen Tuesday's school board work session and the full board meeting Superintendent Tony Tata confirmed that he will present a final plan to the board for discussion at their October 4th meeting. His student assignment task force is continuing to gather feedback from parents over the next two weeks through a series of community meetings. Tata says they are also working out the final details of transportion and feeder patterns in the new plan. Tata said the plan will be, “finalized, shrink wrapped, and ready for board discussion” at the start of next month.

Tuesday's Wake County school board meeting began Tuesday with an update on the new student assignment plan and a series of community meetings currently under way.

Superintendent Tony Tata and members of the Student Assignment Task Force told board members that they are still fine-tuning feeder patterns and transportation based, in part, on feedback from those meetings.

One big change since the last meeting, a name change for the formerly proposed achievement-choice schools. The idea is to allow students in historically low-performing areas to have a choice of attending a school with high-performing teachers.

Some board members, including chairman Ron Margiotta, have raised concerns about designating some schools as “achievement schools” when the goal is high student achievement for all. Those schools will still be an option moving forward under the new plan, but they are now called “high-performing” schools.

Tata and his staff also proposed some new alternative school ideas to the board Tuesday. One would be the addition of two separate magnet leadership academies, one all-male, one all-female.

It would involve restructuring the current Longview campus program, and both new schools would serve students in sixth through 12th grades. The idea is to open both of the new academies in 2012 to give students this option under the new choice plan.

Wake County schools staff also discussed the option of converting Hilburn Elementary School in Raleigh to a Kindergarten through 8th grade school beginning in 2012. Staff told the school board the move would open more middle school seats and postpone the need for building a new middle school in northwestern Wake County.

As the school board and staff continue talking about new school construction needs, Chief Facilities Officer Don Haydon updated the board members on some proposals Tuesday. He proposed building a new elementary and high school along with getting renovations underway at Cary High School with money left from a bond voters approved in 2006. Haydon also proposed building two additional high schools and a new elementary school with the next bond.