Next year's Wake County student reassignment plan is a work in progress with everything approved by the old school board under review with new suggestions coming in all the time.
During Tuesday's work session, Laura Evans, senior director of growth and planning, laid out to the board an explanation of the assignments being considered and the direction they're leaning toward. It will help to have your copy of the handout present.
The ensuing discussion showed how the thinking has changed to reflect the new student assignment policy. Multiple times, Evans talked about bringing students home, having them attend their neighborhood schools and moving the least number possible for stability.
The first thing you'll see on the handout is that actual enrollments are much lower for this year than projected back when the three-year plan was developed in 2009 for Barwell Road, Hodge Road and Timber Drive elementary schools. Evans said the differences mean they may need to change how they populate the new Walnut Creek Elementary School in Southeast Raleigh.
Moving to the pages listing the changes suggested, the first 17 are all from the multi-year plan.
But you'll see that item 18 calls for looking at reducing applicants at Brooks Elementary School, a magnet School in North Raleigh.
Evans said that Brooks was added to the list at the request of Felecia Locklear, the school's principal, because an apartment complex in the school's base that had been abandoned a few years ago is now being rebuilt. Evans said Locklear is concerned that the new housing could crowd the school.
Evans said that items. 32-36 were suggestions they had heard from parents. She reiterated that all suggestions from parents, both in and out of the workshops, will be listed and reviewed.
Items 37-38 were suggested by Washington Elementary Principal Peggy Beasley-Rodgers because the school has lost of a lot of base students from the closure of the Walnut Terrace housing complex. Evans said that Beasley-Rodgers had requested that the base be expanded to get more kids who live by the school, located near downtown Raleigh, rather than to just accept more magnet applicants.
Item 39 is based on school board member Deborah Prickett raising concerns about Hilburn Elementary being underenrolled.
Item 40 is from parents whose kids would go to the new Walnut Creek Elementary.
Evans said one of their priorities is to make the least number of moves possible for stability.
Focusing on the Walnut Creek moves, Evans said they're definitely going to recommend some changes to what's now slated to go there. She started her review by looking at the schools slated to feed Walnut Creek.
Looking at Aversboro Elementary's base, she noted that two nodes are "a pretty good distance" from the school's Garner campus. Based on the new Policy 6200, she said "they want to do something" about sending those two nodes to a closer school, although it might not be Walnut Creek.
Looking at Barwell Road Elementary's base, she said they don't feel they need to reassign any students out of the school because enrollment is far below projections. Part of the reason is that 153 students in Barwell's base have transferred out because the school isn't meeting No Child Left Behind standards. Evans said those students would likely return if Barwell makes AYP because they'd lose transportation for their choice school.
If they're not going to reassign Barwell students, Evans said they'll have to look elsewhere to help populate Walnut Creek. For instance, she said they might reassign four Southeast Raleigh nodes out of the base for Farmington Woods Elementary in Cary, which is overcrowded.
Hodge Road Elementary, which is also feeding to Walnut Creek, is still crowded and needs relief. Evans said they may now recommend reassigning some students to Knightdale Elementary.
Looking at Timber Drive Elementary's base, Evans said they might reassign some nodes that are bordering Walnut Creek's proposed base.
School board member John Tedesco asked Evans about making it possible for the nodes that live around Timber Drive to go to there. Tedesco can be heard whispering that Timber is crowded because of all the nodes who come from Southeast Raleigh. Evans said it would take several moves as part of the next multi-year plan to let those nodes go to Timber.
Evans said they're also hearing suggestions from some parents about having Walnut Creek open on a traditional calendar instead of a year-round calendar. If it opened on a traditional calendar, she said they could designate East Garner as the year-round application school for those people who don't want to leave. She didn't indicate whether she's recommend a calender change.
Looking at items 10-11, Evans said that they're still going ahead with sending those nodes to Wilburn Elementary to "bring them home." She said that Wilburn Principal Jennifer Carnes said they can still handle the nodes even though they'll spend the first part of the 2011-12 school year at the modular campus on Spring Forest Road.
For item 12, Evans said the game plan has been to reassign four nodes from Davis Drive Middle to Salem Middle to provide a calendar match because they're also assigned to Laurel Park Elementary. She said they're hearing good feedback from parents about dropping the reassignment and instead making Salem the year-round calendar option.
For item 13, Evans said the plans calls for reassigning students to Knightdale High to open up more magnet seats at Millbrook High. She said they're revisiting it because one of the nodes actually goes to Durant Road elementary or middle school. Evans said they had thought all the nodes came from River Bend Elementary.
For items 14-17, Evans said it had all been part of an effort to change traditional-calendar application nodes for several schools to free up more seats for magnet applicants at Smith Elementary. She said they're reexamining them and may not recommend the changes because Smith's base hasn't grown.
But with some of Smith's northern nodes touching Walnut Creek, Tedesco suggested that Evans consider moving them. School board chairman Ron Margiotta said that would be "logical."
Evans then moved to the discussion of potential changes to relieve schools that are expected to be at or above 112 percent of capacity next year.
For item 19, Evans noted that Cedar Fork Elementary is now capped. She also pointed out that 215 of the 865 students are traditional-calendar applicants, pushing out some of the base. She also said it would be "hard" to reassign students from the base because "it's their neighborhood school."
Evans said they'll discuss with the board which of the options to use: continue the cap, reassign students, change the number of application students or change the calendar. She said it's too late to add more modular units for next year.
For item 20, Evans said that "reassignment is the least desirable because it's not very stable." But she said it's something they might have to consider to relieve crowding at Dillard Drive Elementary. She said they may look at nodes along the boundaries of the school's base to see if there is space at neighboring schools.
For item 21, Evans said they can talk about reducing the number of magnet applicants at Douglas Elementary School in North Raleigh. She said the school had accepted a significant number of new applicants this year.
In the long term, Evans said they might want to reassign some of Douglas' nodes to a neighborhood school. She said that may be part of the next multi-year plan.
With time running out before Evans had to go to that evening's community workshop, she switched to taking requests from board members to discuss individual schools. Prickett asked about Leesville Road Middle School, which is item 30.
Evans said they've "already started to give some thought to this one" as she pointed to the Leesville satellite nodes in Southeast Raleigh that are near the proposed base for Walnut Creek. That's when the gasp came from the crowd and an "oh my God" came from either the audience or the board table.
Evans said that "we want the middle school and the high school feeder pattern to be a neighborhood school" for Walnut Creek so "we can look right here as part of the solution to Leesville Middle crowding."
"I don't know that we can bring all of these children home or in the area, but we're certainly looking at it," Evans said.
Anne Sherron, a citizen member of the board's student assignment committee, shouted out from the audience "the middle and the elementary, " a reference to where they'd go if they were reassigned to Southeast Raleigh. She's raised concerns that this kind of move will take away magnet seats in Southeast Raleigh.
Evans said they're looking at which schools in the neighborhood have room.
Board member Carolyn Morrison asked if they could look at doing something for Carroll Middle School, which is projected to be at only 76.5 percent of capacity.
Margiotta asked Evans if there are any suggestions for reducing the population at Mills Park Elementary and if they're considering converting Highcroft Drive Elementary back to a traditional calendar.
Looking at the base area for Mills Park Elementary, Tedesco noted there are nodes inside the Raleigh Beltline near the RBC Center. Evans said they could look at them to give them a closer school, which Margiotta said would comply with the new assignment policy.
Board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman asked about item 34, Kitts Creek. Evans said parents want to go to a middle school closer to home. Evans said they have seats available at West Cary Middle.
Tedesco and Goldman also suggested having the Mills Park Middle nodes near the RBC Center go to East Cary Middle. Goldman said those kids would be "five minutes from East Cary." Evans said they'd look at it.
Tedesco then brought up Garner High to look at reducing crowding. He said he wants staff to make suggestions rather than him offer them. Evans said it was an "eye opener" all the things that Garner High Principal Drew Cook is doing to handle crowding.
Prickett closed things out by suggesting they look at helping York Elementary because it's underenrolled. She said people are talking about adding a classical magnet theme to York.
Evans said she got it and asked board members to e-mail her any additional suggestions. She'll be back before the full board next on Dec. 7 to present the revised 2011-12 student assignment plan.