Wake County Schools

Thousands of Wake parents go online for new assignment plan

Posted January 17, 2012 7:24 a.m. EST
Updated January 17, 2012 7:14 p.m. EST

— Thousands of parents went online Tuesday to tell the Wake County Public School System where they would like their children to go to school next year.

The online selection process for the district's new student assignment plan went live on the school system's website at 1 p.m., with approximately 2,200 parents participating within the first hour, school officials said.

Heavy website traffic throughout the afternoon led to slow response times for some parents while others had to try several times before being able to connect.

By 6 p.m., 4,689 people had made at least one choice, Cris Mulder, the school system's chief of family and community engagement.

"The launch has gone smoothly," Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata said Tuesday afternoon, adding that more work continues to reach out to parents to make sure they know what options are available to them.

The school system has scheduled a number of "mobile enrollment events" in Raleigh, Cary, Wake Forest, Fuquay-Varina, Zebulon and Knightdale over the next month during which school system staff will provide computers and assistance to help parents choose. (Click here for a list of events.)

Parents have until Feb. 24 to rank their choices before school staff place students. They will be notify parents by March 16.

A second choice-selection period will open up March 19 for any parent who don't participate in the first round. Assignments based on those choices will be made by mid-April.

Under the new assignment model, parents rank a list of schools, based on their home address. Once a student is assigned to a school, he or she is guaranteed a seat in that school's feeder pattern as long as he or she is enrolled in the school system.

Each year, parents can request placement for a different school if they want.

The school system estimates that parents of about 6 percent of current students will opt to make a change to their plan. The other 94 percent will choose to remain in their current school.

Parents of students who are new or returning to the school system, rising kindergartners and parents who want their children to switch schools must go through the selection process.

Any student new to the school system, including rising kindergartners, must be pre-enrolled at a local school or at the school system’s central office at 5625 Dillard Drive in Cary before they can select their schools.

Current students received their preliminary assignments in November, and parents wanting to change that assignment can go online and rank their school choices but should only pick schools if they are willing to leave their current assignment.

Parents have priority to schools closest to their home as well as schools where children already have a sibling attending. Each student currently enrolled in the district also has the option to stay at the school to which he or she is already assigned.

Students in schools considered low-performing will also have an additional choice to attend a school that's considered high-performing, based on test scores and qualified teachers.

The choice-selection process is moving forward despite calls in recent weeks by some school board members and community groups to delay it over concerns about costs, feeder patterns and whether students from low-performing schools would really have enough access to high-performing schools.

But the board decided last week during a work session not to delay the process. Instead, the plan will be closely monitored and any issues with it will be addressed as they arise.

Tuesday’s process comes after months of community debate and controversy about replacing the school system’s decade-old busing policy to help keep schools socio-economically diverse.

Some, including the state chapter of the NAACP, still fear that doing so will segregate schools, lead to high teacher turnover at economically disadvantaged schools and violate students’ constitutional rights to a fair and equal education.

Those who support the plan have maintained that the new community-based policy will provide more stability for students who are reassigned every school year, give parents more input in their child’s education and increase parents’ involvement.