Blue Plan Test Drive on Track

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Participation in a test drive for the school assignment “Blue Plan” has increased during the past few days after outreach events at schools as well as phone calls, letters and messages on black and Hispanic news media.

Last Friday, the Wake County Public School officials extended the test drive for the Blue Plan until June 24 due to low participation by parents in Southeast Raleigh and eastern parts of the county.

The district’s goal is to have at least 12,000 families participate in the mock assignment process.

“It looks as though we’re on target to meet that goal by Friday,” said James Overman, leader of the superintendent’s student assignment task force, in a presentation to the Board of Education Tuesday.

As of Tuesday morning, 11,595 families had gone online to make school selections.

Because the Blue Plan offers so many more choices to families than the current node-based system, Superintendent Tony Tata and his team want to see which schools parents will choose. Tata will use this information to determine feeder patterns and work out other details of a final student assignment plan.

The task force has had some success in increasing geographical representation, but 131 nodes have yet to respond to the call for participation, prompting concern among some board members.

“You can have a lot of nodes and a lot of people engaged,” said board member Anne McLaurin. “I commend you for that, but I think it’s important to know that you’re getting participation from Hispanic families that haven’t been engaged in the past in the student assignment plan.”

Survey data from questions included on the test drive website indicate that the overwhelming majority of parents want multiple school choices but also consider having their children attend the schools closest to their homes to be “somewhat or very important.”

Even if express bus transportation — a way to reduce busing costs — were the only option available to them, 73 percent of parents said that they would not change the rankings that they chose in the test drive. This percentage could give an indication of how resilient the Blue Plan is to transportation changes.

It’s unclear how a controlled choice plan such as the Blue Plan would affect transportation. Forty-nine percent of Wake County students do not use district-provided transportation.

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