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Student Reassignment Remains Hot Topic In Wake County

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RALEIGH, N.C. — School reassignment is a sore spot with many parents, and proposed changes for the next school year already are open to debate.

Wake County schools

are growing even faster than expected. The next school year could be a record year, with as many as 10,000 students -- twice as many as this year -- who could be shuffled around.

It is going to be a long process, and

public hearings to discuss it start next week.

Though school just started, the big issue for next year already is on the table.

"Ninety percent of the phone calls are related to student reassignment," Wake County School Board member Amy White said, "because parents are concerned."

Walt Sherlin, an associate superintendent for Wake County schools, works in the command center of growth management. Next year, his office might have to move a lot of kids to different schools.

"My guess is as small as 5,000 to as many as 10,000," Sherlin said.

More growth means more kids, which means more new schools, which means more reassigning of students to new schools.

Public hearings on the matter are starting earlier than ever.

Watching from the sidelines is a grass roots community group determined to be heard in the shuffle. Cynthia Matson mans the command center for "Assignment By Choice, Inc." from her home.

"They wouldn't be doing this unless we caused such a stink over the fact that this needed to happen," Matson said. "Because if I am going to go have them just talk to me about the plan, I am not that interested. I want to say: 'O.K., there's your plan. Here's what we think.'"

Managing growth still is an evolving process. In the past few years, especially, the district has made exceptions. Kids will not be moved more than once every three years, and children above the third grade can stay in their existing school if their parents provide transportation.

The exception to the exception is filling new schools. Seven new schools are slated to open up next year. If one of those is your assignment, you have to take it.

Public meetings will take place over the next three months. A proposal is expected early next year. It is important to note that the number of students actually moved to a new school may be significantly lower than estimated.