Wake County Schools

Wake student assignment plan to be presented Tuesday

Posted October 3, 2011 4:53 p.m. EDT
Updated October 4, 2011 6:38 p.m. EDT

— Wake County school board members will get their first look this week at a new student assignment plan aimed at giving parents more choices about where their students go to school.

School system Superintendent Tony Tata is expected to present the plan – the product of seven months of work by a special task force – to the board at a work session Tuesday afternoon.

A vote on the plan is expected Oct. 18.

Tata told reporters Friday that waiting any longer would only hurt parents and students.

"We've got to get in there to make sure everyone understands how this works, because it is fundamentally different," he said. "Instead of being told where you are going to school, you get to choose."

Under the plan, which replaces the district's longstanding practice of busing students for socio-economic diversity, parents would have at least five elementary school choices – including traditional, year-round, magnet and high-performing schools – based on where they live.

Each elementary school has multiple middle and high schools associated with it, and parents have the option each school year to change their assignment.

Some, however, have called for the district to hold off on moving forward with the plan.

"I think this is an incomplete plan," said Patty Williams, co-founder of Great Schools In Wake Coalition, which works to strengthen public education throughout the county. "I think there is no reason to rush to get things done for next year."

Despite 21,000 participants earlier this year in a trial run of the plan, 21 public hearings on the matter and more than 2,700 online comments, Williams says many parents' questions remain unanswered, and she points out that the trial used to get feedback did not use the actual school choices.

"There is a lot of concern about everything from feeder patterns to the extraordinary costs that will be associated with implementing a choice plan," she said.

Tata admits transportation costs will go up as they make the transition but should level off.

He says the plan is the best way to guarantee stability while managing growth. At the district's current growth rate, enrollment is expected to approach 200,000 students in approximately 195 schools in 10 years, the district says.

Although the plan is moving forward, Tata said the district is still listening to parents and adjusting the plan as needed.

Another public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 13 at Broughton High School in Raleigh. Online registration begins at the school system's website at 9 a.m. on Oct. 8. Anyone interested in speaking can also sign up at the door between 4 p.m. and 4:50 p.m. on the day of the hearing. Speakers are limited to two minutes.

"We can make changes that day, the next day. We can work through the weekend," he said. "This is important. We are going to get it right."