Wake County school system data gives more weight to the complaints made by Eastern Wake parents that too many of the region's children are leaving for magnet schools.
This handout from the Sept. 11 school board facilities committee meeting shows that the district's Eastern planning area, which includes Eastern Wake, had the highest percentage of magnet application students among the eight planning regions.
“If you look at the number of students that move out of the Eastern area to other regions at all three school levels, it’s quite telling," said Christine Lighthall, a Wake senior facilities planner. "It’s quite significant. It’s the highest number you’ll see of any of these regions.”
The Eastern planning region isn't just Eastern Wake. It also includes some parts of Northeast Raleigh and Southeast Raleigh.
I'll try to give a brief explanation of the document.
Let's for example, look at the elementary school section showing there were 11,265 magnet and base students at magnet schools last school year. Of that group, 6,189 were magnet application students and 22 percent of them were from the Eastern planning region — more than any of the other regions.
The Eastern planning region also had pluralities in the middle school and high school levels. Of the 3,710 middle school magnet application students, 20.5 percent were from the Eastern area.
Of the 3,308 high school magnet application students, 30.9 percent were from the Eastern area.
Eastern Wake parents have recently escalated their complaints that they feel the region isn't getting enough support from the school district. One of the complaints is that the limited number of magnet offerings in their area means families are going to magnets in other communities.
School board member Jim Martin acknowledged the concern at the facilities meeting but said he can't support denying Eastern Wake students admission into magnet schools.
“We’ve listened to and need to continue to listen to the Eastern Wake County folks because there’s a reason that people are moving out of Eastern Wake County," Martin said. "We can’t just force kids to go to schools and say, ‘No, you may not go to magnet school."
I think we first have to first create programs to make sure that it’s attractive so that people will do that. This is where we’ve got a lot of conversations that need to interface to make effective decisions because I can’t sit here and even capacitywise, [say] “Yep we can take care of that. Eastern Wake County has no access to magnet schools.’ No way do I support that. Not at all.”
Lighthall and Chief Transformation Officer Judy Peppler said the large number of students from the Eastern planning region going to magnets poses some issues for the district as they plan for the next bond issue.
Peppler said the mapping program for new school sites, unless they adjust it, makes it look like they don't need seats in downtown Raleigh because it assumes all the proximity students can go there when in fact a lot of seats are used by the magnet students.
Lighthall said it also impacts how many seats are projected to be needed in the other planning areas.