Wake County Schools

Wake school system takes next steps with assignment plan

Posted October 19, 2011 1:00 p.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2011 6:35 p.m. EDT

— Less than 24 hours after the Wake County Board of Education approved an assignment plan aimed at giving parents more input in where their students go to school, district staff were at work spreading the word to parents about what it will mean for them.

The board voted 6-2 Tuesday in favor of the choice-model plan, which allows parents to rank their top school choices and keep students close to home.

Kevin Hill and Keith Sutton voted against it, even though they said they it could be a good plan for the county. Prior to the vote, Sutton had asked that the board table the measure for 30 days to build consensus on the board and the community, while Hill said he couldn't support it since it doesn't guarantee students from low-performing schools spots in high-performing schools.

Superintendent Tony Tata and a team of school system staff spent months developing the plan, which goes into effect beginning with the 2012-13 school year, going through a trial run and gathering community feedback on it.

Now, the district's focus for the next few months will be educating parents about the changes and walking them through the choice process.

The assignment plan website was updated Wednesday morning with details about Tuesday's vote, and by December, the district plans to launch a full interactive site with all student options.

The district also mailed letters Wednesday to all parents explaining the plan and, in the coming months, will host public events and partner with schools and local groups to make sure every parent understands.

Here's what to expect over the next several months:

  • By mid-November, parents of students already enrolled in the school system will receive their school assignments for the 2012-13 school year based on the current plan.
  • They can keep their students at their current schools or rank their top school choices from at least five elementary, two middle and two high schools based on their address. The choices include traditional-calendar, year-round calendar, magnet and other specialty options.
  • Students get priority to schools closest to their home, and priority is also given to students with siblings already in a school.
  • Once assigned to a school, students are guaranteed to remain in a feeder pattern connected to their school as they move to the next grade and school level.
  • Parents of currently enrolled students do not have to do anything if they would like to stay in their current schools, but anyone new to the school system, including all incoming kindergarteners, must rank their school choices.
  • From mid-January until late February, parents will begin choosing and ranking schools based on the options available to them. They will be notified of their assignment by mid-March.
  • A second choice-selection period will open up in mid-March for any parent who did not participate in the first round. Assignments based on those choices will be made by mid-April.
  • Official assignment notifications will be sent home in mid-May.

Tata on Tuesday told the board, which had been urged by parents and community groups to delay the vote, that it was necessary to adopt the three-year plan now to allow time for proper implementation.

Initially, he said, it will cost approximately $700,000 to pay for extra busing, marketing and community outreach.

The plan includes constant monitoring and evaluation, and changes will be made as needed, Tata has said.

It is still unclear what, if any changes, three newly elected school board members might recommend when they take their seats in December.