Wake County's new choice-based student assignment plan is producing some unusual oddities for the 2012-13 school year that opens today with the return of year-round students.
As noted in today's article, Wake has 151,487 students registered for the new school year, 1,000 more than expected. But staff isn't certain how much of that growth is attributable to phantom students who were gaming the choice plan.
Another quirk of the choice plan is that Richland Creek Elementary School only has 34 students registered so far for its Aug. 27 opening. That's far fewer students than it would have opened with under the old base-school assignment plan.
As of last week, Richland Creek had 11 students in kindergarten, three in first grade, nine in second grade, two in third grade, six in fourth grade and three in fifth grade.
The original plan was to only offer K-3 this fist year at Richland Creek because few older students were expected to apply. But Wake decided to offer fourth and fifth grades to keep the families who have younger and older children.
Chief Transformation Officer Judy Peppler said the school will offer small, multi-age classes until it gets enough enrollment to form a specific grade-level class.
Since the school has fewer than 100 students, the state won't pick up its share of Principal Tammie Sexton's salary.
Peppler said they're still hoping the school will get 150 students this year.
To get an idea of how underenrolled the school is, Richland Creek's modular campus at the DuBois Center can hold 92 students per grade level.
Peppler said they’re opening it in August because of crowding at the schools near Richland Creek.
“We didn’t want to have a situation where we didn’t have the capacity for students in the area,” Peppler said.
Rolesville Middle School is opening with 511 students. Peppler said they’re pleased with the figure because it’s more than what they expected for the school’s first year.
In comparison, the last two new middle schools opened by Wake in 2010 had about 1,000 students assigned to them.
You've also got what happened at Abbotts Creek Elementary School in North Raleigh, which only had six students apply. Its opening is being delayed to next year because staff say there are enough seats at nearby schools to keep up with demand for now.
The other wrinkle of the choice plan is how many of the 151,487 registered students actually intend to go to school in Wake.
Peppler said they’re uncertain how many families who intend to attend a private school, charter school or home school may have registered with Wake to see if they could get a particular school in the choice plan. Under the old plan, they would have gone to their base school.
Wake has asked families who registered but who don’t plan to attend this fall to notify the district. But families aren’t required to give that notification.
Peppler said some families have told them they're not coming. She said they're using that info to move students into seats that have now opened up as a result.