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Wake school board shuffling students to traditional schools

Since more than 2,500 Wake County families opted for traditional-calendar schools instead of year-round, the school board spent four hours Wednesday trying to sort out where those students will go next year.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Since more than 2,500 Wake County families opted for traditional-calendar schools instead of year-round, the school board spent four hours Wednesday trying to sort out where those students will go next year.

Administrators said 95 percent of parents with children assigned to year-round schools decided to stay put, but the other 5 percent created logistical problems. Board members identified 25 schools that might be able to accommodate more students, but they said some of them are at or over capacity already.

School board members hope to come up with a tentative plan before their June 5 meeting so they b could vote on it then. If the plan is approved, the district would start sending assignment letters the following day to the families who chose a traditional-calendar school.

The recommendations put together by the school board will be in effect only for the 2007-08 school year.

The reassignment process is causing frustration among parents as well as members of the school board.

"We are required, of course, to offer families who opt out of a year-round school, a traditional seat," said school board member Eleanor Goettee. "We do not currently have traditional seats available exactly where we need them. So, we are going to have to do some reassignment or reshuffling, and that is extremely frustrating."

Goettee also said the school board is having to juggle a number of different variables, such as school capacity, the number of mobile classrooms used in the reassignment and the balance of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

The school system's Transportation Department will also face a challenge because it will have to pick up students who may have switched from a traditional-calendar school to a year-round school and vice-versa.

School board member Susan Parry tried to downplay fears that students who opted out of year-round schools would be reassigned to schools across the county.

"We'll try to work as close to home as possible," Parry said. "But we simply don't have space in areas where most of the crowding occurs."

Timber Drive Elementary School and East Garner Elementary School, both in Garner, had the highest number of families opting for traditional schools, at 143 and 140, respectively. Timber Drive is already a year-round school, while East Garner is set to convert to year-round this summer.

Among middle schools, 563 families opted for traditional schools, of which 142 families were assigned to East Wake Middle and 115 were assigned to North Garner Middle. Both schools are being converted from traditional schedules to year-round calendars.

Among elementary schools, 1,966 families are opting for the traditional calendar.

The board did say that no teachers would lose their jobs, but they may be transferred to other schools.

Rolesville Elementary School Principal Lillian Lee said her school is prepared to take on as many as 120 students whose families have opted out of three nearby year-round schools. The extra students would move the school from 66 percent to 120 percent of capacity.

"We know that we can handle that many students. It will take some rearranging of classrooms, of course," Lee said.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ruled this month that it was illegal for the school system to assign students to year-round schools without parental consent, and that led to forms going home with all the students in year-round schools and those who would be assigned to them.

Wake Cares Inc., a group opposed to mandatory conversion of schools to year-round schedules, filed a suit that led to Manning's ruling.

Several parents had said when the forms went home with students that they were choosing year-round because the uncertainty of assignment if they chose a traditional calendar was too great to make that option palatable.


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