Local News

Draft plan would move 26K Wake students over three years

Wake County schools will release its first multiyear student-assignment plan on its Web site at 9 a.m. Saturday. For the first time, the draft projects student assignments ahead for more than a year.
Posted 2008-11-15T10:11:56+00:00 - Updated 2008-11-15T11:40:18+00:00
Draft plan would move 26K Wake students over three years

The Wake County Public School System has released a draft of what it calls an "unprecedented" multiyear plan to reassign more than 26,000 students over three years.

The proposal will be available on the school system's Web site at 9 a.m. Parents can also comment on the plan via the Web site.

For the first time, improved technology and growth projections from municipalities enabled the WCPSS to project assignments ahead for more than a year, officials said. That planning method is also more cost-effective.

"Families have more information and have it earlier," Chuck Delaney, assistant superintendent of the WCPSS, said in a release. "The multiyear proposal responds to public requests for information and input."

The reassignment plan is driven by the opening of 10 new schools over the next three years: five year-round elementary schools, three year-round middle schools and two high schools, which are all on a traditional schedule.

"The new schools provide space for newcomers, alleviate overcrowding and balance enrollment at additional schools," Delaney said.

For 2008-2009, the first year of the plan, 8,162 students would be reassigned. Three new elementary schools will open up in eastern and southern Wake County, necessitating moving younger students in those areas.

But 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 2009-2010, when two high schools, two middle schools and one elementary school open. Most students moved will be in northern, western and southern Wake that year.

In 2010-2011, 4,409 students will be reassigned, as an elementary school and 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 original school. In the past, students have been required to provide their own transportation to school.

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

The county has already considered delaying some construction projects, because it has had trouble selling bonds in the nationwide credit crunch.

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 hours. School system officials 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.

"We do try not to split up neighbors," Delaney said. "But it's not always possible, because if you're trying to use buildings efficiently, there may only be space in that building for 50 more students."

The draft plan anticipates the arrival of a little more than 4,000 new students each year, including those moving into the county and about 1,400 kindergartners starting school.

In 2008, 3,700 new students enrolled in the WCPSS; the average over the past three years was more than 5,800.

"If you're going to be a growing county, it's inevitable," Delaney said.

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

WCPSS will take as many measures as possible to keep students from being moved, but reassignment is a reality that's here to stay, officials said.

"We're going to keep using short-term strategies like mobile and modular homes when we have to," Delaney said. "And we're going to have to keep recommending the reassignment of students in order to make schools efficient and comparable to each other."

What happens next

Five community meetings will be held to gather comments on the proposal, and the public can comment on the WCPSS Web site until Dec. 10. Each meeting will be from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the auditorium of the school.

  • Nov. 20 – Knightdale High, 100 Bryan Chalk Lane in Knightdale
  • Dec. 1 – Cary High, 638 Walnut St. in Cary
  • Dec. 3 – Wake Forest-Rolesville High, 420 W. Stadium Drive in Wake Forest
  • Dec. 4 – Holly Springs High, 5329 Cass Holt Road in Holly Springs
  • Dec. 8 – Broughton High, 723 St. Mary's St. in Raleigh

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 slew of public meetings and finalize the plan by or on Feb. 3, 2009.

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