Is a K-8 school conversion the answer to Hilburn Drive Elementary's underenrollment and the lack of capacity for northwest Raleigh middle schools?
As noted in today's article by Chelsea Kellner, Wake Count Superintendent Tony Tata will present a plan to the school board on Tuesday to convert Hilburn to a K-8 campus for the 2012-13 school year. It would be the first combined elementary and middle school in Wake since before the 1976 merger.
“This is an idea that would save money and be very value-added to this community,” Tata told Hilburn parents at a meeting at the school on Wednesday.
The conversion would allow Wake to at least temporarily hold off on plans for building a small middle school off Leesville Church Road. Instead, Wake could use the unspent bond money to build a bigger high school in Apex than the one proposed for Cary.
The Hilburn conversion would answer the need for middle school seats in northwest Raleigh, where crowding has been aggravated by Leesville Road Middle's conversion back to a traditional calendar.
But it wouldn't help with efforts to add more year-round middle school seats in that part of the county.
The proposal drew some concerns from Hilburn parents, such as holding middle school and elementary school students under one roof and what kind of middle school programs would be offered.
“I’m still skeptical on how they could truly keep the younger children from being negatively influenced by older students,” said Rodney Marcum, whose third-grade daughter attends Hilburn.
Other parents wanted to make sure the school would have the same extracurricular and academic opportunities as larger conventional middle schools. Tata assured them that staff would work to make the school equal.
The proposed change is the latest chapter in efforts to help fill Hilburn, which got a STEM program from Tata to lure families to the school. Some school board members had talked about turning Hilburn into a sixth-grade center.
Tata said at today's news conference that he'll present the Hilburn conversion to the school board on Tuesday as part of a series of revisions to the draft 2012-13 student assignment plan.
Tata said he'll want to see Tuesday if the conversion will at least get initial approval since it will impact the rest of the student assignment plan.
Tata said he'd like to use the Hilburn conversion as a pilot to test the feasibility of other K-8 schools in the district. He said it could save construction dollars at a time when money is tight.