Could the development of feeder patterns be more of a hold-up on the new Wake County student assignment plan than coming to an agreement on achievement-choice schools?
As noted in today's article, staff's update on the student assignment plan included discussion on achievement schools and a presentation on sample feeder patterns. During the meeting, board members said zilch on the achievement schools but went into detail on the feeder patterns.
"We know this is contentious," Superintendent Tony Tata said to board members in response to the feeder pattern concerns. "This is high stakes. We want your feedback to make this right."
Pointing back to the response on the question on the test drive, James Overman, head of the student assignment task force, said parents prefer having a feeder pattern as opposed to complete choice for middle school and high school.
As this handout shows, staff was working under draft feeder guidelines with the top priorities being trying to keep elementary school cohorts together through high school, following magnet school program pathways and trying to avoid calendar mismatches.
The rules were rank-ordered with having proximate feeder patterns at the bottom of the list.
School board member Debra Goldman questioned the feeder pattern for Morrisville Elementary going to East Cary Middle and Panther Creek High. Acknowledging that's the neighborhood she lives in, she said the feeder pattern should be to Cary High.
Goldman asked what options existed for families who don't like their feeder pattern. Susan Pullium, a member of the student assignment task force, said those families can always try to choose a school outside the feeder with the district seeing if there are enough seats to accommodate the family.
Pullium added Panther Creek High was chosen because Morrisville was closer to it than to Cary High. She said the feeder patterns can change as new schools open.
Goldman next questioned why Cedar Fork Elementary students were feeding into West Cary Middle before being split off into different high schools. She said that students really bond in middle school so she's concerned about "blasting them back out" to different high schools.
Pullium explained that limited high school capacity, particularly at Cary High, led to that feeder pattern. She said that keeping the students at one high school would mean changing someone else.
Goldman went on to praise staff for having all of Reedy Creek Middle's students go to Cary High.
Pullium then discussed briefly how they wound up recommending some feeder pattern changes with Brier Creek Elementary being the example. She said they proposed moving them out of Mills Park Middle and Panther Creek High to relieve a projected seat shortfall. She said that sending them instead of Leesville Road Middle and Leesville Road High would allow them to use available capacity at the high school.
School board vice chairman John Tedesco spoke up next to question the logic of the feeder patterns in Garner.
Based on the potential 2,000 seat shortfall at Garner High, Tedesco questioned why Barwell Road and Bugg elementary schools were added into the feeder pattern. He asked why the Bugg students weren't fed into Enloe High, which is closer and is projected to have excess capacity.
Pullium said that creative arts and science themed elementary magnet schools like Bugg would feed into International Baccaulaureate themed schools like East Garner Middle and Garner High.
While the overage was "dramatic" at Garner High, Pullium said the rationale was that the school can handle it in the short term with the addition of a ninth-grade center and later a new high school in Garner.
Tedesco questioned why Timber Drive Elementary was being taken out of Garner High's feeder pattern to go to Middle Creek High.
Pullium said that they were dealing with high school seat shortfalls everywhere but in northeastern Wake.
Tedesco then questioned why Farmington Woods Elementary feeds into the Garner area instead of Cary. He noted that the two are pretty far apart in terms of distance.
Goldman agreed with Tedesco as she too questioned sending Farmington Woods students to East Garner Middle and Garner High.
"Community-based schools means to me community," Goldman said.
Tata explained that it was part of their guideline of keeping magnet school pathways as Farmington Woods, East Garner Middle and Garner High all are International Baccalaureate schools.
Tata asked if the board wanted to steer away from magnet pathways toward proximity in the feeder patterns. Tedesco said that he would value proximity more.
Tedesco also said that he feels that they should consider adding an IB program in western Wake. Farmington Woods had fed into Danieis Middle and Broughton High before both schools were demagnetized.