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Parents make last push against school reassignment proposal

Wake County Schools held their final community engagement meeting Monday evening on the system's plan to reassign more than 26,000 students over the next three years.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County school administrators held their final public meeting Monday evening on the system's plan to reassign more than 26,000 students over the next three years.

The meeting, at Broughton High School, 723 St. Mary's St., was packed with nearly 1,000 parents voicing their concerns before the final draft of the reassignment plan is sent to the Board of Education.

The Percy family was the first to speak at the podium. High school students in their neighborhood have been reassigned many times.

The area was assigned to "Cary High School, then got moved to Green Hope, (then) back to Cary High School, then got moved to Panther Creek High and now they want to move it back to Cary High School,” parent Steve Percy said.

The latest reassignment would make five changes in 11 years, and Ian and Micaela Percy said they hope that doesn't happen.

“It's a great toll, mainly on relationships. You have to make all new friends,” student Ian Percy said.

The reassignment proposal is the Wake County Public School System's effort to begin planning for population growth and student movement more than a year in advance. Administrators have said planning for three years would save money for schools and lessen aggravation for families.

The school system also says it needs to make room for low-income students who are often bused to schools to meet economic diversity goals the district has set for itself.

"We want fair and adequate resources, and distribution of those resources and programs, so that each child can be served where they are,” parent Debbie Mann said.

Changes have already been made to the draft based on parent feedback from what the schools term the community engagement meetings. School officials say they will make their final recommendation to the school board on Dec. 16.

There was a serious debate Monday evening about whether Broughton High will keep its magnet status.

"We love neighborhood schools, but it is awesome that Broughton is a combination of a neighborhood school with an international focus and an expectation of excellence that is for every student at the school,” Broughton High graduate Courtney Crumpler said.

Former and current students held signs and candles in protest outside of Monday's community meeting.

Some people say the magnet status is why the school is such a good place to learn. However, some school board members say the high school is so successful, it no longer meets the criteria to be a magnet school.

A rally is planned Tuesday at the school, and the school board is scheduled to vote on the status Wednesday.

About the reassignment plan
For 2009-2010, the first year of the reassignment plan, 8,162 students would be reassigned. Three new elementary schools will open in eastern and southern Wake County, so younger students would be moved in those areas.

Middle- and high-schoolers will also be moved in western Wake to relieve overcrowding, particularly in Cary.

The plan calls for the greatest number of students – 14,200 – to be reassigned in 2010-2011, when two high schools, two middle schools and one elementary school are scheduled open. Most students moved will be in northern, western and southern Wake that year.

In 2011-2012, 4,409 students would be reassigned as an elementary school and a middle school open in northern and southeastern Wake.

The Wake County Board of Education will determine which reassigned students are eligible for grandfathering, allowing them to stay at their current schools. In the past, students have been required to provide their own transportation to school if they stayed after their area was reassigned.

The second and third years of the draft assume that the 10 schools will open as planned. However, their construction is dependent on capital funding and enrollment growth.

Overall, the number of students reassigned is comparable to those moved in the past three one-year plans.

How the plan was formed

More than 100 parents and educators met and discussed reassignment options for over 5,000 total person-hours. School system officials said they kept in mind the concerns that emerged from those planning sessions.

Of paramount importance was keeping the same students together through elementary, middle and high school.

Officials said they also considered schools' socioeconomic balance, the distance students would be bussed and the state's magnet-school policy.

Next steps

Taking into account public feedback, WCPSS staff will make their recommendations to the county Board of Education by Dec. 16.

The school board will hold a new round of public meetings and finalize the plan by Feb. 3.

Mailings will then be sent out to the parents of affected students, who will know their final assignments by mid-May of next year.



Geof Levine, Photographer
Minnie Bridgers, Web Editor

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