Parents argue against elements of Wake County schools reassignment plan

Wake County News

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – Parents urged the Wake County Board of Education to rethink the current student assignment plan during a public hearing Tuesday night.

Wake County school officials say most of the students impacted by the proposal would end up going to two new schools in Fuquay-Varina. South Lakes Elementary will open in 2020, followed by Willow Spring High School in 2021.

However, most of the people who spoke at Tuesday’s hearing focused on changes elsewhere in the county that would move students around to account for overcrowding at some schools and under-enrollment at other schools.

Mindy Varkevisser, who has two children at Highcroft Drive Elementary and one child at Mills Park Middle School, tearfully told the school board about her concerns with her daughter moving to a year-round school while her siblings remain on a traditional calendar.

“Now she will have to go to a new school where she doesn’t know anybody, on a different calendar from her siblings, and I just ask that you consider these sweet children when you’re doing this and not just the maps and numbers,” she said.

Sid Basu, said his family chose to move to the Preserve at White Oak neighborhood in Apex, expecting to send his children to White Oak Elementary, which is on a traditional calendar.

His oldest child will start kindergarten next year. Under this plan, his family would be assigned to Salem Elementary, which is a year-round school. In his neighborhood, 157 people signed a petition opposing the move, which would also reassign students from Mills Park Middle to Salem Middle.

He described it as “a huge swap in terms of work-life balance, schedules, vacation timing, everything. And people that have multiple kids on different calendars, that’s chaotic.”

WCPSS spokesperson Lisa Luten said the changes impact fewer than 2,000 students. “Many of those can grandfather at their current school, so not all will change schools,” Luten said.

Basu pointed to anticipated growth near Salem Elementary. He also questioned why he and his neighbors are being assigned to a new school to account for neighborhoods that are still under development, where families haven’t even moved in yet.

“So, that doesn’t seem to make sense,” he said.

School Board Chairman Jim Martin said the changes are meant to account for future growth, not to serve as short-term solutions.

“We’re looking for long-term stability. We’re not looking for things that are going to have to be changed one year (after) another,” he said.

Several parents told the school board they’re concerned after this change they could be forced to move again later.

In response to that concern, Martin said, “Since I’ve been on the board, we’ve had an absolute commitment that we don’t move people, move school assignments more than once every three years. We haven’t even come close to that.”

The board is expected to take a final vote on the assignment plan December 3.

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