Barring any last-minute changes next week, it looks like the new year-round calendar option for Lynn Road Elementary base families will be Wakefield Elementary.
But the discussion on the issue during Tuesday's Wake County school board student assignment work session raises issues about the role year-round calendar options should play in the district. Should Wake continue to not offer year-round options that are considered more attractive than the base school?
The discussion also raised the prospect that the school system may at some point convert Wakefield Elementary back to a traditional calendar.
As this handout shows, 12 base nodes at Lynn Road apply to Green Elementary this school year as the year-round option. But Green, as part of it becoming a magnet school next year, is switching to a traditional calendar.
In the assignment plan, staff recommended making Wakefield the new year-round option for those 12 nodes.
Laura Evans, senior director for student assignment, told the board about the feedback that's been received so far on the change.
Laura Evans said that at least one family wanted a more proximate option than Wakefield. She also said they've also heard from a couple of people questioning whether Wakefield would be a good choice in case the board converts it back to traditional.
Wakefield Elementary is part of a K-12 campus. The elementary school was among the group of 22 schools that converted to a year-round calendar in 2007 while the middle school and high school remained on the traditional calendar.
Some parents unsuccessfully fought the conversion. Parents lobbied the board in 2010 to convert it back. But the effort died after Wakefield's board member, Kevin Hill, didn't back the change.
Laura Evans told the board that there "certainly" are seats at Wakefield Elementary. The school holds fewer students now on the year-round calendar than it did before the conversion.
"What I can say from staff’s end is we want to be a little bit careful here we don’t tie the board’s hand," said Temporary Superintendent Stephen Gainey. "If we get a bunch of people here at Wakefield Elementary and then there be a chance to realign that campus as a K-12 traditional and so we’re leery there. We’re leery."
The possibility of converting Wakefield caught board members off guard.
“Is that something that’s even been in discussion?" said board member John Tedesco. "I haven’t heard that for the last two years.”
“I think it’s trying to anticipate — with no new schools coming on line — seats," Hill said. "And right now as a year-round at the elementary there are seats.”
Board member Susan Evans asked staff what the options are.
Laura Evans said that in 2011-12, the last year families officially applied for a calendar school, they handled everyone who applied to a traditional-calendar school. She said they weren't able to handle all requests for year-round schools, citing Adams, Durant and Heritage elementary schools and Heritage Middle School.
Laura Evans said they could choose not to use Wakefield "to not tie hands" and have them apply to Durant Elementary. But she said that would lead to a greater possibility of not being able to seat everyone who applies to Durant.
“It’s a tough one," Laura Evans said.
Board member Jim Martin asked how proximate Wakefield is to Lynn Road and what are the most proximate options. Other board members said Wakefield is nowhere near Lynn Road.
Laura Evans said that Pleasant Union and Brassfield elementary schools are "definitely more proximate." Martin asked "what's the downside" of using either school.
“I’m just going to throw this on the table because it’s always been part of our history," said Laura Evans. "When we offer calendar options, we also try to look at we’re offering families a choice, but not at the expense of a sending school. So it’s just a fine line what I’m trying to say.
Is the calendar-option school more attractive than my base school? And so that those that can accommodate the year-round calendar will take that option and so that the base school is left with students who are not able to deal with the track-out care for their children. So we’ve always been real cautious about that.
We’ve not had a conversation recently with the board about any of that, but Dr. Gainey and I were talking about it this morning.”
Susan Evans asked what would be staff's recommendation if Wakefield isn't used. Laura Evans again said that Brassfield and Pleasant Union are more proximate.
Martin said they have to make some decision because Green is no longer a usable option.
Laura Evans said they can leave Wakefield as the year-round option and grandfather any students who go there.
"The ultimate thing is try not to create bigger reassignments," Gainey added.
Susan Evans asked if they have any sense how many families in the Lynn Road base choose year-round.
Board member Christine Kushner said that since Lynn Road is near capacity and Green is undercapacity that she's guess most families are sticking with he traditional calendar.
Susan Evans said if that's the case they should stick with Wakefield.
Gainey said sticking with Wakefield would help with the issue raised earlier in the work session by Martin about the choice plan this school year causing the free-and-reduced-lunch rates to go up at the high F&R schools and to drop at the low F&R schools.
Martin said that as they look at calendar-option assignments that it doesn't make sense to have assignments that aggravate the problem.
“We can roll the dice here," Gainey said of using Wakefield.
After the meeting, Hill said he was surprised that conversion of Wakefield had been brought up Tuesday because the board hasn't discussed it in the past few years. Hill said he considers conversion of Wakefield to be a "non issue" with all the other issues they're now facing in the district.