This month's Wake County school board discussion on the draft 2013-14 student assignment plan shows both the advantages and disadvantages of the district's multi-track year-round calendar.
On one hand, the multi-track calendar is helping Brier Creek Elementary School in northwest Raleigh keep up with growth as the only school in the area. On the other hand, the multi-track calendar was negatively impacting Eastern Wake schools, leading to staff recommending that three schools switch to a single-track calendar for next year.
During the Nov. 13 board work session, board member Deborah Prickett said that at her last board advisory council meeting some parents had asked about switching Brier Creek to a traditional calendar or single-track year-round school.
Brier Creek, since opening in 2006, has been on the multi-track year-round calendar.
Prickett asked staff, which had said it would look into the issue, to explain to the public about the issues involved with Brier Creek.
Laura Evans, senior director for student assignment, said there's been 15 percent growth in Brier Creek's base in the past three years.
“It’s a high-growth school and it’s the only school in that area as you well know," added Susan Pullium, a director in student assignment. "If we reduce the capacity in the school, we set it up for capping almost immediately. Rather than cap families out of the school, we thought it would be better to leave it as is and maybe just continue to look at it for future school years.”
Pullium answered yes when Prickett asked if staff had any correspondence with Brier Creek's principal.
After the Brier Creek discussion, board member Jim Martin said he had to commend staff for the calendar alignment change in Eastern Wake.
Staff is recommending that Hodge Road and Lockhart elementary schools and East Wake Middle go to the single-track calendar. This means that all the Knightdale schools would now be on either the traditional calendar or track 4.
Groups such as the Knightdale 100 have been urging for a calendar alignment in the town's schools.
“I know often times the community gets frustrated that we’re just spending so much time talking about assignment," Martin said. "But I’d just like to highlight that you did a great thing here to help with student achievement because we can align everybody on to a common track.
Right now, East Wake just had a number of tracks that just were under-enrolled so you couldn’t offer the same number of classes so this is an example of where assignment actually does impact student achievement. I just think it’s important to note for the public in this discussion and thank you for doing that. I think that’s a step in the right direction.”
Evans respond that it had all started with Hodge Road Elementary not being able to offer a particular program.
Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore said that she had a couple of meetings with the Knightdale 100 about track misalignment and programming. Moore said she had also talked with Hodge Road about programming.
“We were looking at some programming decisions and how to implement them and whether or not the calendar had an impact on that and it just grew into a larger conversation," Moore said. "And then was able to broach Laura later on and say, ‘Let’s look at the calendar issues in the district and in this part of the county and see whether there’s actually a misalignment and who are the feeder patterns and what are the options moving forward.’
And she was able to let me know there was space and because growth had slowed in that part of the county that we had the ability to do that.
And I think another thing is we’re recommending a single-track year-round because if growth picks back up and we need to go back to multi-track then you’ve got it built in to expand that way if you need to.”
Evans said they have to keep in mind feeders when they consider these kinds of changes. For instance, she said Moore had asked about Barwell Road Elementary feeding into East Wake Middle. Evans said the majority of Barwell's students don't feed there.