Changes are looming for how students will be selected to fill Wake County's magnet schools.
Asst. Supt. Chuck Dulaney told board members on Tuesday that his staff will be working on a formal board policy on magnet schools. This would help formalize the year-to-year guidelines that his staff develops.
One of the goals of the new board policy would be to try to address how some non-magnet schools are being negatively impacted by magnet schools. In other words, you could see changes that make it harder for some students to get into the magnet program.
Dulaney presented data on Tuesday showing how magnet schools, the calendar application process and transfers are impacting individual schools.
In one of the most extreme cases, Fox Road Elementary has 1,178 students in its base. But 463 largely non-F&R students are opting out of the school. For instance, the F&R percentage of the magnet students leaving is 7 percent and it's 17 percent for those leaving for year-round schools.
The F&R percentage for those 1,178 base students is 46 percent. But it jumps to 66 percent at Fox Road after those 463 students leave.
Dulaney also used the example of Dillard Drive Middle to highlight what he called the "two-edged sword" of the magnet program.
Dulaney said Dillard has the largest base population of any middle school. Of the 1,808 in the base, 813 are out through magnet, year-round and transfer applications.
The departure of those 813 students raises the F&R percentage of Dillard's base from 22 percent to 36 percent.
Dulaney said that on one hand they need people to leave Dillard because they don't have enough space on campus. But he said they need to monitor the situation to be careful that it "doesn't become a self-fulfilling prophecy" in which the rising F&R rate causes even more middle-class families to leave.
The F&R percentage also rises at Knightdale and East Wake high schools because of people opting out for magnet schools or transfers.
But rather than add a new magnet program at East Wake High, Dulaney urged board members on Tuesday to deal with both eastern Wake schools by changing the magnet selection process.
Dulaney said that magnetizing East Wake High would likely result in the school getting students from Knightdale High's base. While it would lower the F&R rate at East Wake High, it wouldn't do anything for Knightdale.
Dulaney said magnetizing Knightdale High would compete directly with the new magnet program at Millbrook High.
Dulaney will report back to the board on Oct. 27 with some preliminary magnet recommendations and possibly a draft policy, He said he was surprised that no board policy is already in place considering how important magnet schools are to Wake.
School board member Lori Millberg said the data points to the need to change how magnet schools are filled. For instance, she again brought up the idea of lowering the percentage of magnet seats that are filled randomly from the current 10 percent to 5 percent.
Millberg also suggested the idea of limiting how many applicants a magnet school could draw from a particular base school. For instance, she complained about how the Wake Early College got 58 students, more than a quarter of its enrollment, from East Wake and Knightdale high schools.
But board member Ron Margiotta said they should make schools more attractive so that people don't want to leave instead of just reducing the magnet odds.
But Millberg questioned where they'd get the dollars to improve those non-magnet schools.
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