WakeEd

The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. How will the new student assignment plan balance diversity, stability, proximity and stability? How will Jim Merrill replace Tony Tata as the new superintendent of the state's largest district? How will voters react to a $810 million school construction bond referendum on Oct. 8 ballot? How will this fall's school board elections impact the future of the district?

WakeEd is maintained by The News & Observer's Wake schools reporter, T. Keung Hui. While Keung posts information and analysis on the issues, keep us posted on your suggestions, questions, tips and what you're doing to cope with the changes in Wake's schools.

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Looking at the four zone map samples

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To make it easier for everyone to find, here's the handout from Tuesday's Wake County student assignment committee meeting showing the various sample zones.

The handout lists the maps, the schools that are in each zone and the enrollment projections for each zone. (Click here for color maps.) There are a couple of big caveats, such as how the enrollment numbers don't include magnet students, just where all the raw kids are projected to be.

But this doesn't mean that they're not including magnets for the new zones. School board member John Tedesco again said Tuesday that he expects many of the current magnets to remain so under the new zones.

Another big caveat that staff and Tedesco said Tuesday is that these maps are strictly samples for planning purposes. Still, Tedesco said they'd narrow down the four zone samples still under consideration and make adjustments to the one they they think best fits their plans.

If I had to guess now, some combo of the high school geographic map and school transnportation district map have the best chance of being adopted.

You can expect a lot of tweaking before all the zones are finally set.

Staff was asked to come back by the Aug. 31 committee meeting to come back with more info such as how many students would be displaced from their current schools in each zone sample and which nodes are in each zone.

Staff will also list how each school did in the state's ABCs of Public Education testing program.

You'll notice the handout includes the zip code zone map that was developed at the request of school board member Keith Sutton. Staff was told they don't have to do further work on that map.

I've also got all the data electronically. I'll post it online at some point if Wake doesn't do so soon.

UPDATE

Click here to view the map by area superintendent.

Click here for the map by planning region.

Click here for the map by transportation district.

Click here for the map by high school geographic attendance.

 

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Zones & Regions

A while back, Tedesco talked to News 14 Carolina about 18-20 zones, 5 regions. I think zones will be combined with a heavier line, creating regions, and maybe middle and especially high schools pick within region. There are also the county wide highs - Enloe and SE. AND the half county Millbrook and Garner. Count the busses now.

Duplicate

Duplicate

choice and stability vs. neighborhood schools

That's the conflict. The biggest zones would require the least change when new schools are added. For example, adding a new high school to the high school zone map would require changes to a lot of zones, while adding it to the area superintendent zone map might only affect one zone.

Tedesco said in the meeting that being allowed to choose between 4 or 5 schools would be reasonable. I think that gut instinct is good, that much choice would make a lot of people happy, but it's not where they seem to be going. Here's how the maps really play out on the high school level, given the 24 current high schools.

Area superintendent: 3 or 4 options, depending on zone

Planning region: 2 or 3 options

Transportation district and high school: 1 or 2 options

Why do they want to restrict choice? Why not try to give people the 4-5 options that Tedesco himself stated to be reasonable? I think we really need to find that out. These are the same people who have been speaking up for school choice. Why not maximize it, so people have a real choice?

Only way

The only way stability is provided in a zone model (assuming we are not going to fund a whole bunch of new schools at 50% capacity) is to have large zones. Preferably 2 HS,  3 MS and 6-8 ES. Otherwise lines will be have to constantly be redrawn. But then again I am ok without the lines. But  I guess we will need them to manage in times of in climate weather. 

I am wondering about

I am wondering about "stability"  .... if people did not like being shuffled between two schools under the old plan with out of control growth, I am not sure why it would be more palatable simple by putting both schools in the same zone?  They are still having to go to a new school.  We could have say one zone called Wake County which would be very stable if you are counting how many times kids move from zone to zone vs. school to school ...

Stability

Once you are in you are in. It is the new people coming in that face the uncertainty. If there is no capacity in their first choice then it goes to the second choice and so on.  Hypothical - one goes to Wakefield MS, you are an only child or oldest and are a rising freshman. Your first choice is Wakefield HS, but we know Wakefield HS is over capacity and since you do not have a sibling you are denied. Your second choice is Wake Forest - it has capacity so you are in. This is now your base school for 4 years. You should be happy though because it was your choice. So in your neighborhood two buses come. 1 for your friends to take them to Wakefield (they are in because they have  siblings already there) and 2. to take you to Wake Forest.  This is the new vision of stability.   Given the non continguous growth of the county I do not see this version of stability lasting to long before the peasants storm the palace. This controlled choice model has not been proven in a high growth area and Margiotta's and Tedesco's experiences are in small districts (2,000 students) with NO growth.  How easy it is to plan when there are no changes. 

No growth??

D2 is loaded with growth, try again.

As for Once you are in you are in that's certainly how it should be. And that goes for track assignments as well!

I think Solon77 was

I think Solon77 was referring to Margiotta and JTs experiences in the past in NJ with small no-growth school systems.

Correct

Correct - sorry if I was not clear. 

So in your neighborhood two

So in your neighborhood two buses come. 1 for your friends to take them to Wakefield (they are in because they have  siblings already there) and 2. to take you to Wake Forest.

Why not one bus, since the two schools are 5 minutes away from each other?

Bell schedules

As it is bell schedules are 40 minutes apart - not very family friendly. So something else would have to change. 

Then change the bell

Then change the bell schedules.

One thing that WCPSS has never done is optimize bus routes - something that is done in many other districts across the country. New York city public schools recently used computer algorithms to optimize their bus routes.

With too many buses arriving at school less than half filled, optimization would reduce the need for 3 tiered busing, reduce the number of buses needed, save diesel, and save the taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

I agree

I agree, however this will mean "longer" time on the bus for many and this is not family friendly.  Nevertheless with the impending changes some form of optimization will need to occur 

But Jeffrey comes from a

But Jeffrey comes from a land where there are 10 kids at every bus stop, so he thinks that a bus can be filled in 5 or 6 stops.

He doesn't bother to concern himself with how his "plan" functions in areas that don't have that type of population density.

No. Jeffrey is confident in

No.

Jeffrey is confident in his research. He has looked at the bus schedules from several dozen schools in Wake. He has studied bus route optimization. And he no longer feels the need to reply to ignorant posters that rely on personal experience and anecdotal evidence to make broad statements about things that they know little about.

I'm not ignorant.  You say

I'm not ignorant.  You say things as though they are facts and then you lash out when you are questioned. 

People who support the new majority often point to parental convenience (even if they don't actually call it that) as something that the prior board overlooked far too often.

Well, the 3-tier bus schedule is one occasion where the new board took action to save money and appeal to parents.  It saves money, and it shortens the bus rides for almost every student.  Parents like short bus rides.  Isn't that a big part of what got the new board elected?

In your research, you have apparently ignored the savings associated with the 3-tier plan to focus on the excess seating available on some buses. 

There are fewer buses on the road in the 3-tier plan.  That means fewer buses that WCPSS has to buy, and fewer employees they have to hire to drive them.  That means less maintenance because you have to maintain fewer buses.  It moves a lot of kids for a relatively low amount of money.

If the focus was on filling every bus instead, a lot of kids' rides would get longer.  The routes would be too long to be traveled in the limited time between bells now, so the 3 tier plan would need to be scrapped.  That would mean more buses purchased, more drivers hired, and more maintenance.

I don't think you're breaking any new ground whatsoever by saying that WCPSS has some buses that could hold more kids.  Everybody knows that.  The district made a choice to shorten the average bus ride and save money, and that choice was the 3-tier system.  It is efficient, whether you like it or not.

"....posters that rely on personal experience and anecdotal evidence to make broad statements about things that they know little about."

Well, when I pointed out that the average bus route at my child's school had a certain amount of stops, didn't you use your child's school in response?  Do I need to find "dozens" of other schools with 18-20 stops per route to prove a point without being "anecdotal"? 

You haven't offered any proof at all that focusing on filling up the buses would save money for the district or time for families.  With all of the "family friendly" talk that comes from the new board and its supporters, I find it very hard to believe that they would implement a more expensive busing focus that increased ride times for a lot of kids.

Facts from the WCPSS

Facts from the WCPSS Department of Transportation:

• 877 regular route buses, 112 spare buses
• 68,000 students transported daily (each way)
• 4,400 daily bus routes (half in the morning, half in the afternoon)
• 28,500 daily bus stops (half in the morning, half in the afternoon)
• Average distance traveled by students — 16.5 miles (one way)
• 16 million miles annually
• 2.4 million gallons of fuel annually

Calculations using the above figures:

Average routes per bus per day (4,400 / 877) = 5.02
Conclusion: On a 3 tier system, each bus would run 6 routes, so it appears that not all buses are running on 3 tiers.

It is logical to assume that a bus is either running on two tiers or 3 tiers as it would be unlikely for a bus to run 5 routes (2 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon - or vice-versa). So to determine how many buses are running on a 3 tier system, solve the following equation:

6 (X) + 4 (877 - X) = 4400   where X is the number of buses running on 3 tiers

This yields a result of 446 buses running on 3 tiers (6 routes per day) and 431 buses running on 2 tiers (4 routes per day). This would result in the WCPSS figure of 4,400 routes per day.
Conclusion: 431 buses are unable to run on 3 tiers, presumably because the length of the ride prohibits them from completing the route in the 45 minutes necessary to run on a 3 tier system. This should be substantially reduced in the zone model, allowing more buses to be run on 3 tiers and providing significant cost savings.

Do I need to find "dozens" of other schools with 18-20 stops per route to prove a point without being "anecdotal"? 

Well... yes:

Average number of stops per route (28,500 / 4,400) = 6.5 stops per route
Conclusion: 18-20 stops per route is the exception. There would have to be routes with only 1-3 stops to counter the effect of 18-20 stops on the overall average of 6.5.

Average number of students per route ((68,000 * 2) /  4400) = 31
Conclusion: With an approximate bus capacity of 66 for ES, 55 for MS, and 44 for HS, buses appear to operate well below capacity. In particular, at the ES level, buses appear to operate at less than half full.

Length of average bus route ((16 million / 4,400) / 180) = 20.2 miles
Average distance traveled by students = 16.5 miles (each way as reported by WCPSS)
Conclusion: Previous analysis has shown that a majority of ES students live within 1.8 radial miles from their closest school (3.0 miles for MS and 3.45 miles for HS). A zone model should significantly reduce both the length of the average bus route and the average distance traveled by students.

Average number of students per stop ((68,000 * 2) / 28,500) = 4.8 students per stop
Conclusion: Adding just 2 stops to a HS route or 4 stops to a MS route would enable those routes to operate at close to 100% capacity. Any addition to the time associated with making additional stops would be offset by the shorter length of the route as documented above. This would enable WCPSS to maintain a 3 tier busing service.
Alternate Conclusion: Rather than add stops to existing routes, a single route could serve more than 1 school (provided that schools are close to one another as would be in a zone model). In this way, a neighborhood that split its ES choices between 2-3 schools could be served by one bus/route, eliminating the need for a separate bus/route, and resulting in substantial savings to the school system.

Cost of Fuel (2.4 million gallons * $3.00) = $7.2 million / year
Average distance traveled by students = 16.5 miles each way
Possible fuel savings by reducing distance to 14.0 miles each way = $1.125 million /year
Possible fuel savings by reducing distance to 12.0 miles each way = $1.96 million /year

Note that none of the conclusions above have assumed the introduction of advanced bus route optimization techniques that have resulted in substantial savings in every district that they were used.

One additional comment concerning:

Well, the 3-tier bus schedule is one occasion where the new board took action to save money and appeal to parents

I can assure you that no thought about shortening the bus rides for parents ever went into the decision to go to a 3 tier bus schedule. It has always been about saving money. From the WCPSS Department of Transportation:

The three-tier bus transportation system was implemented in fall of 1993 when Leesville Road High School opened. At that time, the Board of Education did not have sufficient funds to purchase enough buses to support opening an additional new high school. Direction was given to the transportation department to investigate ways to transport students to school without adding additional buses.

And with the increase in the average distance traveled to school since 1993, and the subsequent need to cap one way travel times to 75 minutes for ES and 90 minutes for MS/HS as that average distance increased, I can assure you that bus rides were not shortened because of the 3 tier bus schedule.

Finally, I am confident in my research, and I am confident that it is based in fact. I am also confident that you have presented no factual evidence whatsoever. And I have no desire to continue such a one-sided debate.

"This should be

"This should be substantially reduced in the zone model, allowing more buses to be run on 3 tiers and providing significant cost savings."

There will still be magnets.  John Tedesco says he wants to offer transportation to every choice available.  All of that eats into (if not eliminates) the cost savings that you assume.

"There would have to be routes with only 1-3 stops to counter the effect of 18-20 stops on the overall average of 6.5."

There are routes with 1-3 stops.  Routes 7 & 8 at Salem ES have 2 stops each.  I can't believe you missed those.  SERHS has 7 routes with 3 stops or less.  Wakefield ES has 2 routes with 3 stops, 1 route with 2 stops, 2 routes with 4 stops, and then 1 with 20.  That means that WES averages 6 stops per route.  Traditional schools' bus routes aren't available yet.

It happens.  Especially at schools where there are people who are currently "bused in" and at magnet schools that have express busing.  The express busing isn't supposed to go away, and people will have plenty of choices. 

"Conclusion: Adding just 2 stops to a HS route or 4 stops to a MS route would enable those routes to operate at close to 100% capacity."

High schools and middle schools cover more ground, so those routes are most likely already longer.  Wouldn't logic dictate that if the first kids are already riding 30-40 minutes, then adding 2-4 stops would make that 40-50 minutes?  If we're making all these changes to avoid long bus rides, I don't understand how making some people's rides longer is considered a good option.

Alternate Conclusion: Rather than add stops to existing routes, a single route could serve more than 1 school (provided that schools are close to one another as would be in a zone model). In this way, a neighborhood that split its ES choices between 2-3 schools could be served by one bus/route, eliminating the need for a separate bus/route, and resulting in substantial savings to the school system."

Once again, at what cost?  If a bus came through your neighborhood and picked up all the ES school kids, and then had to go to 3 or 4 different ES, how long would the first kid be on the bus if he went to the last school?  Since the bus has to stop and unload at each school, how many schools can the bus make it to in 30 minutes (that's the drop off window, and it applies to buses, too).  If the bus is pushing it to make it to 3 or 4 schools in that window, would tardies count for the kids at the last school? 

You have done a lot of research, but just like all the other research that involves education it was done with the goal of reaching a certain conclusion.  I have done more than study route optimization software, I have seen it in action first hand.  I know that it can be very effective, but I also know that it isn't perfect.

There will still be

There will still be magnets.  John Tedesco says he wants to offer transportation to every choice available.  All of that eats into (if not eliminates) the cost savings that you assume.

No it does not.  Analysis showed that nearly half of all buses only run on two tiers. There is no way that all those buses are serving magnets. And magnet options will not increase in the zone model. Conclusion: Many of those buses that were running on two tiers will be able to run on three tiers in the zone model.

Routes 7 & 8 at Salem ES have 2 stops each.  I can't believe you missed those.

Did not miss those. I was merely illustrating that while you are correct that there are some bus routes with 18-20 stops, then there must exist some routes with only 1-3 stops to result in an overall average of 6.8 stops. I knew those routes existed - I was not sure if you recognized that they did, and would be prime candidates to serve additional stops or additional routes.

If we're making all these changes to avoid long bus rides, I don't understand how making some people's rides longer is considered a good option

We're not making these changes to avoid long bus rides - we are making these changes to give parents more choice, and to allow parents to attend a school near their homes. If kids attend a school closer to their home, that will shorten the bus route. This in turn will allow routes to make additional stops OR serve additional schools.  The time spent on additional stops or additional schools will be offset by the savings caused by shorter routes. The goal is not to shorten the bus ride -- the goal is to provide choice and proximity.

If the bus is pushing it to make it to 3 or 4 schools in that window, would tardies count for the kids at the last school

Asking a single route to server 4 schools is asking too much, which is why you will notice that I said 2-3 schools, not 3-4 schools. And truth be told, a single route serving 3 schools is probably only realistic if all 3 schools are very close to one another AND no additional stops are needed to serve 3 schools (versus 1 or 2). That way, the only extra time would be associated with the additional unloading at the 2nd and 3rd school (again offset by the shorter routes associated with a zone model). However, even if a route could serve 2 schools, that eliminates the need for two routes (1 morning and 1 afternoon). Create just 50 routes that serve two schools, and you save 2.3% of a $60 million dollar annual operating budget. That's huge!

You have done a lot of research, but just like all the other research that involves education it was done with the goal of reaching a certain conclusion. I have done more than study route optimization software, I have seen it in action first hand.  I know that it can be very effective, but I also know that it isn't perfect.

My conclusions were supported by facts. If you want to do your own research and reach a different conclusion, that is fine, but please use facts to make the case for your conclusions. Your conclusions will carry a lot more weight if you back them up with something other than "I have seen it in action first hand."

Your analysis didn't really

Your analysis didn't really show anything, because I'm quite certain that some buses only run one route.  Your math works out, and is correct, but you are assuming that every bus runs more than one route.  Do you know that is a fact?

If you knew they existed then why did you make the statement?  Is that some sort of a test for me?  The statement that you made in the previous post did NOT sound like a comment from someone expecting to see a bunch of 1-3 stops routes.

Are you honestly saying that people have never said that no kids need to be on the bus for two hours a day?  Really?  I don't have time to look now, but I bet I can find a bunch of posts from a bunch of people that say otherwise.  Especially as it pertains to the diversity policy and "forced busing".  Do you really think that people who have cried the blues about other people's kids being on the bus for an hour each way are going to all of a sudden think it's great when it's THEIR kid? 

"And truth be told, a single route serving 3 schools is probably only realistic if all 3 schools are very close to one another AND no additional stops are needed to serve 3 schools (versus 1 or 2). That way, the only extra time would be associated with the additional unloading at the 2nd and 3rd school (again offset by the shorter routes associated with a zone model). However, even if a route could serve 2 schools, that eliminates the need for two routes (1 morning and 1 afternoon). Create just 50 routes that serve two schools, and you save 2.3% of a $60 million dollar annual operating budget. That's huge!"

How do you propose to get more kids on the bus without adding stops?  Are there really enough schools that are that close together?  Don't forget....these buses will be fighting carpool traffic at the first school.  I don't think it would work at all for middle or high schools (most of those a fairly well spread out), so you're only talking elementary schools.  Besides, are people really going to like/allow their kindergartener to ride the bus with an 8th grader?

I understand the "how" of a bus serving two schools.  But, if that bus is currently running with 20-30 kids, dividing those kids up into two groups and dropping them off at different schools doesn't save anything.  Adding more kids onto that bus would require more stops.  More stops take more time.  More time increases that "average ride time".  If that increases, parents complain.

Also, you're overlooking the real-world issues that math can't account for, such as what happen when a kindergartener gets off at the wrong school.

In most neighborhoods, wouldn't you expect the main two choices to be a traditional school and a year round school?  I think that's a fairly logical conclusion.  Those two schools couldn't ride together, could they? 

I understand that your thing is to crunch numbers and talk about how much money we're going to save.  I get that.  What you really need to understand, though, is that I'm not just trying to pick a fight.  I am asking serious questions that deserve more consideration than just "look at the math!!!!!!" from you.

If parents cared about cost savings, then little Susie's dance class would start later and we'd have saved $750,000 by adjusting a few bell schedules. 

The 4 to 5 choices really is

The 4 to 5 choices really is more for elementary schools.

keung - link does not work

The link for the map by high school geographic attendance appears to have an error.

Sorry about. Fixing now.

Sorry about. Fixing now.

So...

Open it and stick an 'f' on the end of the url.  It's accidentally labelled . . ..pd instead of .pdf

That policy is very similar

That policy is very similar to the old policy, that scares me... someone get the political agitators away from our schools!

The high school geographic

The high school geographic map has zones that are way to small to provide choice.

The transportation map is odd.  Our current base MS is in one zone and base ES and HS is in another. A reassignment of current students is practically guaranteed.  And I noticed that they have West Lake ES/MS in one zone and Middle Creek ES/HS in another.  They are right across the street from each other.

Was it discussed what they will do about grandfathering children whose school is no longer in their zone? Will they provide transportation across zones?  Seems like a lot of reassignments and expense will come out of this.

(one other oddity about the high school map - some of the zones have an imbalance of calendar options.  For example, the Middle Creek zone has only YR ES and MS options. The Broughton and Athens zones have no YR options.  Many zones have no YR MS option.  To provide choice that is similar in all zones, there will have to be some major calendar changes, which will also change capacity numbers)

Other than grandfathering

Other than grandfathering kids at their current schools, they didn't provide more details. It's unknown if they'll still provide transportation if you're grandfathered to a school outside your zone.

As for the individual zones right now, keep in mind that the boundaries can still change. 

So Is It Assumed

that transportation will be provided to any choice within a zone?  That sure looks like it could cause a massive increase in busing costs.

So Is It Assumed

that transportation will be provided to any choice within a zone?  That sure looks like it could cause a massive increase in busing costs.

most likely not

Given the results of the last election, most people would prefer the school closest to home.  Of course there will be exceptions, but I doubt there will be a bunch of people looking to go to the furthest school in their zone. 

Capacity

Capacity can not accommodate everyone who wants to go to the closest school - this is why there is the "controlled" choice model. There will be busing.

You didn't answer the

You didn't answer the question.

If people have 4 or 5 elementary schools to choose from, will they be provided transportation no matter which school they choose? 

If not, then it isn't really a choice model, since you'd have to be able to provide transportation to some of the choices.

If so, then it becomes more expensive because you are potentially providing transportation to 4 or 5 different schools from each neighborhood...and that's not even counting any potential magnet students who get transportation.

If different schools in the zones are going to have different programs, then saying that people will always choose the closest school is drastically oversimplifying the situation.

We're running a Q&A on

We're running a Q&A on Sunday for some of the questions being asked, with the caveat that things haven't been resolved yet. But the tentative answer from Tedesco now is that the plan is to provide transportation to all the choices. 

I hope you're writing it,

I hope you're writing it, not Tom Goldsmith.

No Kidding

!

I know they are likely to

I know they are likely to change, just pointing out the obvious to be sure it gets noticed ;-)

Seems to me that the map labelled "Planning Regions" is the option that provides the best number/variety of choices and the fewest number of reassignments due to current schools being outside a zone.  (as well as the most balanced demographics).  Has anything been said about this one?

(BTW - in watching the committee meeting with Michael Alves, I did not see/hear Margiotta.  Was he there?)

Margiotta is out of town

Margiotta is out of town this week so he wasn't at Tuesday's meeting.

Fox Road ES

Under the high school map, it is zoned to Wakefield.  From a proximity perspective, I would think it should be in the Millbrook zone... remember all of the discussion about the heavy and dangerous traffic on Capital Blvd?

Wow....

Page 19 of that really shows the byzantine mess that was created by the old assignment policy.  No wonder you could never find that map on the WCPSS website.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.
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