Patience is a virtue that newcomers to Wake County need as they register their children for school this fall.
As noted in today's article, the implementation of the new choice-based student assignment plan changed the way registration takes place in the Wake County school system. In the past, newcomers could come any time of the year to register at their child's base school.
But since June, newcomers have had to go to Central Office in Cary. Parents are told to expect to spend at least two hours as they go through the process of waiting to register their children and then making the school selection.
The choice plan is supposed to prevent overcrowding by limiting how many students a school can have at each grade level.
With schools running out at seats at some grade levels, Judy Peppler, Wake’s chief transformation officer, said it made more sense to have families register in a central location where student assignment staff would know how many of the constantly changing number of seats are still available.
“We waited as long as we could to let families register at the schools,” Peppler said. “We didn’t want families to go to a school and choose and be told, ‘Sorry, we don’t have room for you.’”
Registration lines were extremely crowded in early July when year-round schools opened. The rush has slowed down somewhat to about 150 to 200 families a day.
The pace is expected to pick up as it gets closer to the first day for traditional-calendar schools on Aug. 27. Peppler said they've got school data managers, the people who used to handle registration, to come in to Central Office to come in to help with the coming rush.
The first thing families do when they arrive is to take a number. They then wait in the school board meeting room for their number to be called.
If they haven’t yet done so, they’re asked to fill out an enrollment packet. When the number is called, a member of the Office of Student Assignment reviews the information and, if it’s all correct, tells parents to go back to their seat and wait for a different staffer to call them.
When their names are called again, the parents are directed to wait in the building’s lobby. At some point, they’re called into the Office of Student Assignment to make their school choice and find out what they’ll get.
Some parents are finding their choices are limited, as this updated list of school seat numbers shows. The result is that some families are being told their option is to go to a year-round school that's already in session.
Parents can try to request the very popular track 4, which started July 30. But they may wind up getting tracks 1, 2 or 3, which started July 9.
“I’m serious as a heart attack,” said Amber Nichols of Apex, who found out Wednesday that her 10-year-old son, Dakota, was given Salem Elementary, a year-round school. “If I had the money, I’d move out of Wake County.”
Nichols, who recently relocated from Sampson County, had tried to get into Apex or Baucom elementary schools because they're on a traditional calendar. But neither school has openings in fourth grade.
Nichols went to Salem on Wednesday. The school notified her today that her son would get track 2, putting him a month behind his new classmates.