Local News

Wake schools assign students; Board unhappy with results

Posted June 5, 2007 7:46 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2008 7:39 p.m. EDT

— The Wake County school board on Tuesday night approved a plan that will find seats for about 2,600 students who balked at being assigned to year-round schools, but officials were not happy with their decision and said it failed to meet some of their goals, including economic diversity.

The board also disclosed that it had voted earlier to ask the state Court of Appeals to give it leeway in assigning new students who register in the district after Monday.

When Superior Court Judge Howard Manning said the district must get permission to put children in year-round schools, the school board mailed out more than 30,000 consent forms to parents with children in year-round or modified year-round schools or slated to go to them. More than 90 percent of those parents agreed to stay at their assigned school when it changed.

Another 2,626 students opted to move to traditional calendar schools, however, and the schools had to scramble to figure out where to assign them. Of those, the system reported, nearly 1,600 are on the free-and-reduced lunch plan, the way school systems know who low-income students are.

Tuesday night, the board could not assign students who opted out of five year-round schools in the Garner area, and officials said they would look again at students from North Garner Middle School at a 2:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday. They did not say just when they would find seats for opt-out students from Vance, West Lake, Rand and Timber Drive elementary schools.

“I have to begin by saying that it's definitely with frustration and not satisfaction that I'm prepared to make some recommendations  to you this afternoon,” Chuck Dulaney of the schools Office of Growth Management, told the board during the marathon meeting.

Numbers for two schools show why officials were dissatisfied with the results of trying to balance the load of a growing student population. Year-round schools that were supposed to ease overcrowding may not do that, and traditional schools that were supposed to be less crowded may not get the relief officials wanted to provide.

Take Timber Drive Year Round Elementary: the school fits 881 students, but 142 opted out, and projected enrollment is left at 835.

However, at Davis Drive Elementary, with a traditional schedule, the school fits 899 and the projected enrollment is now 997. The school has 13 mobile classrooms, and some specialized teachers may lose classrooms and work off carts.

School Board Chair Patti Head told the public meeting that the board had voted in a closed session on Monday to ask the Court of Appeals for permission to handle new arrivals' assignments outside Manning's order.

Year-round schools start their year July 9.

The court is hearing the board's appeal of Manning's order, which stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Wake Cares Inc. The group opposed a plan to convert 22 schools from traditional to year-round schedules.

Head said it is clear that the judge's ruling upset the balance in schools on socio-economic diversity.

"This has eroded years of work to create healthy schools," Head said.

Board attorney Ann Majestic plans to file the request within the next few days, Head said.

Board member Ron Margiotta said he was the only one on the board who opposed the request.