Low Participation Extends School Plan Test Drive

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Parents now have a little more time to take a “test drive” of a potential new student assignment plan.

Wake County Public School System Superintendent Tony Tata has moved the closing date for the Blue Plan student assignment test drive from June 20 to June 24.

Tata said the change is due to low participation by parents in Southeast Raleigh and portions of the county east of U.S. Highway 64.

In order to have enough data to analyze school selection patterns, district officials want at least 12,000 families to go online (http://assignment.wcpss.net) and make choices under a mock assignment process.

Only about 7,000 families have done so.

“About 85 percent of the district’s nodes have responded in some fashion,” Tata said.

To encourage more parents to engage in the trial run, Tata has scheduled community outreach events where school staff can educate them on the importance of the test drive and give them Internet access to complete their choices on the spot.

He has also sent out additional public notices to principals of schools in areas with low participation.

Tata made a direct appeal to parents at a press briefing Friday.

“If you haven’t participated in the test drive, please do so,” he said. “If you have, ask your friends and neighbors to do so.”

Although Tata’s student assignment task force has not been keeping track of the socioeconomic status or race of those who have already participated, the areas with low participation generally have higher concentrations of low-income and minority households.

Tata will still present a student assignment work plan to the Board of Education Tuesday. The work plan will include a timeline through next March designating deadlines for key steps in the creation of what will eventually be called the Wake Plan.

The Wake Plan will merge aspects of the Blue and Green Plans.

Although the Blue Plan has seen the strongest community support, Tata said he is paying attention to Green Plan proponents.

“There is a strong desire for feeder patterns,” he said. “Many of the people who indicate a preference for the Green Plan do so because of the comfort of feeder patterns, so they know where their child will go to school for X period of time.”

Final feeder patterns have not been established for the Blue Plan.

Tata’s team must also still decide what to do when parents make no school selection for their children. The district could place such students in their nearest school or their achievement school, a nearby school with high-performing teachers and students.

“It’s having a balance between the needs of parents with the needs of the system,” Tata said. “First and foremost, I would never take away a parent’s right to select where he or she wants their child to go to school.”

State Budget Could Impact Non-Instructional Services

The state budget finally enacted Wednesday will likely mean cuts to transportation, custodial and central services positions in the Wake County Public School System.

The $12.4 million in cuts would require firing or shrinking contracts over and above the central services, clerical and assistant principal reductions already made.

On the brighter side, the state budget restores funding for teacher assistants and provides additional funding for teachers in grades one through three.

The $1 million in transportation cuts come even as the General Assembly increased the number of school days per year from 180 to 185.

Since transportation in the district costs about $100,000 per day, five extra school days means an additional $500,000 expense.

To accommodate the extra school days, five teacher workdays will be eliminated.

For some overcrowded year-round schools that cannot accommodate five extra days without going over capacity, the district will apply for a waiver. The legislation allows some flexibility as long as students are in school 1,025 hours during the year.

“Despite these challenges our work continues,” Tata said. “We’re always in the business of education.”

“This budget we’re going to make work for Wake County,” he said. “We’ll find a way to give the best possible instruction to support students.”

Blue Plan Outreach Events

Sunday, June 19
First Baptist Church – 101 South Wilmington St. (Following 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. services)

Monday June 20
Wendell Elementary School (8-10 a.m.)
Southeast Raleigh High School (8-10 a.m.)
Fuller Elementary School (8-10 a.m.)
Wakelon Elementary School (8-10 a.m.)
Ligon Middle School (8-10 a.m.)
Zebulon Elementary School (10:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.)
Hodge Road Elementary School (10:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.)
Boys Club and Girls Club, 605 N. Raleigh Blvd. (10:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.)

bleclaire@raleighpublicrecord.org

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