Wake par­ents plead to board: Don’t re­as­sign our chil­dren

The News & Observer - - Triangle & N.C. - BY T. KE­UNG HUI khui@new­sob­server.com

Wake County par­ents warned Wed­nes­day night that shuf­fling their chil­dren to dif­fer­ent schools next year could have neg­a­tive im­pacts that kids carry the rest of their lives.

The new stu­dent en­roll­ment plan would move thou­sands of kids to dif­fer­ent schools for the 2019-20 school year, par­tic­u­larly af­fect­ing fam­i­lies in western Wake. With the fi­nal vote sched­uled for Nov. 20, 31 par­ents and stu­dents used Wednes- day’s school board pub­lic hear­ing to make some­times emo­tional arguments against re­as­sign­ing stu­dents.

“Over the next few years as our pe­di­a­tri­cians start see­ing more and more cases of self harm and other ef­fects, I want this board to rec­og­nize your role in do­ing it through the dis­rup­tion you’re creat­ing in their ev­ery­day life,” said Paul Kouroupas, a Cary par­ent whose child faces re­as­sign­ment. His com­ments were met with ap­plause from the crowd.

Much of the plan in­volves fill­ing four new schools: Green Level High and Al­ston Ridge Mid­dle in Cary, Park­side Ele­men­tary in Mor­risville and South­east Raleigh Ele­men­tary. The plan also rec­om­mends open­ing Al­ston Ridge Mid­dle and Park­side Ele­men­tary on a year-round cal­en­dar and con­vert­ing East Cary Mid­dle to a tra­di­tional cal­en­dar.

Some changes have been made since the first draft of the plan was pre­sented by stu­dent as­sign­ment staff in Au­gust. Staff added more changes Wed­nes­day to cal­en­dar-ap­pli­ca­tion schools for Swift Creek Ele­men­tary, Yates Mill Ele­men­tary and Dil­lard Drive Mid­dle.

Stu­dent as­sign­ment staff also pro­posed that stu­dents whose cal­en­dar-ap­pli­ca­tion school is be­ing changed would be al­lowed to “grand­fa­ther” at their cur­rent school if they give up bus ser­vice and pro­vide

their own trans­porta­tion.

The school board ap­proved its own changes Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing al­low­ing cur­rent stu­dents at Green Hope and Hor­tons Creek ele­men­tary schools to stay in­stead of be­ing re­as­signed to Park­side Ele­men­tary. But they’d have to pro­vide their own trans­porta­tion if they stay.

But other stu­dents be­ing re­as­signed to Park­side, in­clud­ing ev­ery­one from Cedar Fork Ele­men­tary, would get Pleas­ant Grove Ele­men­tary as their tra­di­tional-cal­en­dar ap­pli­ca­tion school. They would get neigh­bor­hood bus ser­vice if they take this op­tion.

The board also agreed that cur­rent sixth-grade stu­dents be­ing re­as­signed to Al­ston Ridge Mid­dle can stay at their cur­rent school for two years if they have an older sib­ling who is also not leav­ing the school. Staff had only rec­om­mended let­ting the younger sib­ling stay for a year at the cur­rent mid­dle school with the older sib­ling.

The change came af­ter sev­eral par­ents at Davis Drive Mid­dle urged the board on Wed­nes­day to ei­ther not move them to Al­ston Ridge Mid­dle or ex­pand who could grand­fa­ther.

“You’re creat­ing more in­sta­bil­ity than is nec­es­sary, and it’s go­ing to af­fect our chil­dren neg­a­tively,” said Ta­tia Mark­land, a Davis Drive par­ent.

But some of the most-re­quested changes from par­ents are still in­cluded in the re­as­sign­ment plan.

The plan would still move stu­dents from the Cameron Pond com­mu­nity in Cary out of Mills Park mid­dle and ele­men­tary schools. Fam­i­lies ar­gue that they live within walk­ing dis­tance of the Mills Park schools, which as­sign­ment staff say are too crowded.

An ef­fort Wed­nes­day to post­pone the Cameron Pond move for a year fell short when board mem­ber Lind­say Ma­haf­fey couldn’t get enough sup­port. Sev­eral Cameron Pond speak­ers urged the board to re­con­sider be­cause they said mov­ing their small com­mu­nity wouldn’t do much to re­lieve crowd­ing at Mills Park.

“Please im­pact as few stu­dents as pos­si­ble,” said Brenda Ni­chols, a Cameron Pond par­ent.

Board mem­bers also dis­cussed but didn’t act Wed­nes­day on re­quests for changes from par­ents at Reedy Creek Mid­dle and East Cary Mid­dle. Staff want to move hun­dreds of stu­dents out of Reedy Creek Mid­dle to free up mag­net seats and to fill up East Cary Mid­dle.

Speak­ers said too many stu­dents are be­ing moved, which could cost Reedy Creek fund­ing for teach­ing po­si­tions if it can’t re­place the stu­dents who are leav­ing. Staff said there’s a plan to in­crease mar­ket­ing for the school.

“The num­bers don’t in­di­cate a rush to take so many of us away,” said Jenn Smith, a Reedy Creek par­ent.

Sev­eral speak­ers from East Cary Mid­dle urged the board to leave the school on a year-round cal­en­dar. Staff say the school isn’t at­tract­ing enough stu­dents on a year-round cal­en­dar, but par­ents said the prob­lem is other is­sues such as the con­di­tion of the cam­pus and the early start time.

“You just had an elec­tion,” said Les­lie Dou­glas, an East Cary par­ent. “You all have to re­mem­ber the first time you chose to run for school board. It wasn’t to re­dis­trict stu­dents or up­root them.”

At the re­quest of school board mem­ber Keith Sut­ton, staff will look at whether East Cary can si­mul­ta­ne­ously op­er­ate both a year-round cal­en­dar and a tra­di­tional cal­en­dar.

“We’re clearly hear­ing par­ents from two schools ask­ing us to keep them the way they are,” said school board chair­woman Monika John­son-Hostler.

Fam­i­lies who had fought the plan to open Park­side Ele­men­tary on a year-round cal­en­dar said Wed­nes­day they’re no longer ask­ing for it to open on a tra­di­tional cal­en­dar. But they asked the board to give closer tra­di­tional-cal­en­dar op­tions than Pleas­ant Grove.

“There is not an el­e­ment of fam­ily life that is not dis­rupted by an hour com­mute one way,” said Anne Robottt, a Mor­risville par­ent whose child could be moved to Park­side.

T. KE­UNG HUI News & Ob­server file photo

Carter Brady, a fifth-grade stu­dent at Mills Park Ele­men­tary School, urges the Wake County school board on Sept. 4 in Cary not to move his neigh­bor­hood to dif­fer­ent schools for the 2019-20 school year.

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