Are the complaints that have come in about the new feeder patterns worth the consequences of delaying their implementation in Wake County's new student assignment plan?
As noted in today's article, the Democratic board members cited all the complaints they've received to suggest a one-year delay in implementation. But the Republican board members and staff warned that could pose major problems to the plan.
If the feeder patterns are delayed, staff thinks that will require all rising sixth- and ninth-graders to have to apply for a school this year. The students currently in middle school and high school would be grandfathered with transportation but could apply to go elsewhere.
Democratic board vice chairman Keith Sutton was the first to propose delaying implementation so staff could study it.
Superintendent Tony Tata said parents like the feeder patterns as his staff pointed to the high percentage who supported them in the test drive.
Democratic board member Susan Evans said the feeder patterns are "problematic."
Evans said she's heard from "numerous families" who are at year-round elementary schools who expected to go to a traditional-calendar middle school but now find themselves feeding into a year-round one. In addition, it's putting them into a high school that they didn't expect to feed into.
"I’m hearing from so many people who are contemplating changing their elementary school, not because they’re unhappy, but because they don’t like their feeder pattern," Evans said.
But Tata said that they would have to resend all 130,000 assignment slips.
"You're talking about a different plan entirely," Tata said.
Democratic board member Jim Martin sad it's not fair to say it would affect 130,000 students when it would only impact the rising sixth- and ninth-graders.
Tata said only a small number of people have complained about the feeder patterns. He warned about upsetting those who like the feeders.
"You’re going to flip the coin and you’ll hear the hue and cry from people who are satisfied with the feeder patterns," Tata said.
Republican board member Chris Malone said there are going to be winners and losers on the feeders no matter what they do.
Evans said she believes in stability once you get into a school. But she questioned how realistic it is to provide stability all through high school.
"Let’s be realistic," Evans said. "We can’t tell any family entering kindergarten today that 13 years from now nothing will change."
Tata responded that he disagreed with Evans' statement.
Martin argued that with new schools opening feeder patterns will have to change.
Tata said they've never said feeder patterns won't change. He said they'll give people due notice of the change. The idea has been to say that people who enter kindergarten would get a different feeder than those who came before them at that elementary school.
Chief Transformation Officer Judy Peppler said they tried as much as possible to keep historic feeder patterns.
Martin responded that staff assumed everyone in a middle school wants to go to the same high school. But he said that's not necessarily the case.
Peppler responded that people can choose to leave their feeder pattern with Martin replying that can happen if the school they'd rather attend has capacity. Peppler said that when people move it frees up capacity.
Democratic school board member Christine Kushner said that some people feel that the rules have changed on them with the new feeders.
Evans brought up her concerns about putting magnet schools in the feeder pattern will cause some magnet elementary schools to be under chosen. Earlier in the work session, she and Martin had brought up concerns that magnet families have because they don't want to feed into a magnet middle school or high school.
Martin cited the example of people who might not want to apply to or stay at Joyner Elementary because it would feed into East Millbrook Middle and Millbrook High.
Evans also said she's concerned that the feeders will cause people not to want to go to year-round schools.
Evans called these the "unintended consequences" of the feeders.
"There’s no plan on earth that doesn’t have unintended consequences," said Republican board member John Tedesco. "That’s life.”
Brad McMillen, a member of the student assignment task force, said that eliminating feeders will require them to redo the magnet application process. He cited how a person who might have liked their initial assignment may not have applied to a magnet school as a result.