School Assignments Wake County Nc Property

Kristin Riha is dreading the conversation that she may have to have with her 7-year-old daughter about no longer going to the same Wake County elementary school as her big sister.

Riha’s younger daughter is very shy and leans on her 9-year-old sister, who sits on the bus with her and walks her to class each day at Willow Springs Elementary School. But Wake’s new student assignment proposal moves both girls to Ballentine Elementary School in Fuquay-Varina next year while only guaranteeing that the older daughter can stay at Willow Springs.

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Riha and many other parents are affected by proposed changes that reduce the “stay where you start” provisions that allow families to avoid changing schools or splitting up siblings. School leaders say challenges such as meeting the state’s new smaller elementary school class sizes are limiting their options to provide stability, but parents are calling the changes harmful for children.

“Certainly we have choices, but the happiness of our children is a major factor,” Riha, a Fuquay-Varina mother, said in an interview. “None of us would want to uproot our children.”

The proposed rule changes could require hundreds more students than normal to change school next year and thousands more students in the future.

Wake reassigns thousands of students each year to fill new schools, ease crowding at existing schools and try to balance the percentages of low-performing students at schools. With more than 160,000 students and 22,764 more projected to arrive over the next seven years, more reassignments are coming.

In response to complaints that families weren’t getting enough stability, school leaders in recent years expanded which students are eligible for “grandfathering.” In this option, students can stay at their current school even if their neighborhood is reassigned. Families who use grandfathering give up school bus service.

But the new assignment proposal would cut back on who is eligible for grandfathering, particularly at elementary schools.

The assignment proposal also calls for no longer guaranteeing requests from parents to have younger siblings attend the same school as the older child who is grandfathering. If this change is approved, all requests would be automatically rejected by staff so parents would have to appeal to the school board.

School board member Jim Martin said Wake is working in a different world now, particularly since state lawmakers are lowering class sizes in kindergarten through third grade to an average of roughly 17 children per class starting next year. The average was 21 students last year.

“We cannot provide as many options so we have to tighten up our assignments,” Martin said in an interview. “That’s the only way that we’re able to cope with the class sizes.”

The enrollment proposal moves some elementary students to get class sizes down. This comes on top of changes that schools are already planning for next year, including converting art and music spaces to regular classrooms, putting two classes in the same room and having more than 29 students in fourth- and fifth-grade classes.

Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore explained to school board members that reducing the grandfathering and sibling options would allow student assignment changes to go into effect sooner.

School board member Bill Fletcher said grandfathering is slowing down Wake’s ability to make needed assignment changes.

“The reality is that when we’re assigning from elementary to elementary, the schools aren’t going to be that far apart,” Fletcher said at a recent school board committee meeting. “The challenge may be that they’re all on the same bell schedule. But they’re not that far apart.”

Parents have been vocal on Wake’s online discussion forum that they do not want grandfathering reduced.

“Children that are currently attending should absolutely be grandfathered - it is not OK for my son to invest time and energy in a school (and music program) that he loves and then be transferred to a ‘new’ old school where he will know no one,” parent Suzie Adamsky wrote on the forum.

Under the proposed rules, the only way to guarantee that siblings would go to the same school is for the older student to move with the younger sibling instead of grandfathering.Amy Bailey wrote on Wake’s forum that grandfathering siblings is the right thing to do.

“How can you allow one student to remain at their beloved school and tell the other they can’t and force them to go elsewhere?” Bailey wrote. “How does this help children to excel academically when you rip everything they have ever known out from under them?”

During a school board committee meeting Tuesday, board members talked about a compromise: Siblings of rising fifth- and eighth-graders who are grandfathering would be allowed to stay at their current school for one year before having to move. Board members are looking at potentially allowing students to stay up to two years in high school with their grandfathered older sibling before making them change campuses.

Wake has been letting grandfathered younger siblings stay at the school until they finish and are ready to move to middle school or high school. Martin, the board member, said the one-year compromise recognizes the need to make sure that the assignment changes happen sooner than later.

“We’ve only been doing reassignments when there is a clear need to do a reassignment,” Martin said. “If the need exists, then you really kind of need it to take place. You don’t need it to be drug out over a five- to seven-year time period.”

If the compromise is approved, Michelle Antonio would be able to keep her youngest daughter at Olive Chapel Elementary in Apex next year while her oldest daughter grandfathers at the school for fifth grade. She said the year will give her more time to decide what to do.

“I can’t imagine the position they’re in trying to manage all of us,” Antonio said of the school board. “I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes. I empathize. But on the flip side, I’m living with the consequences of it.”

Grandfathering is an option that some Wake County students can use to stay at their current school even if their neighborhood is moved to a different school. Families give up bus service if they grandfather.

Currently, any elementary school student can grandfather to stay at the current school if the student is reassigned to another existing school. When students are moved to new elementary schools, grandfathering is only available to students who will be starting fourth or fifth grades.

Wake distinguishes between old and new schools because students who are moved to an existing school won’t be getting all the latest amenities.

But student assignment staff propose limiting grandfathering at elementary schools to students who will be starting fifth grade next fall regardless of whether it’s an old or new school. The change would help fill new schools quicker and make it easier to meet smaller state-mandated class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.

Kristin Riha, center, hugs her two daughters before she takes them to Willow Springs Elementary School while at their home in Fuquay-Varina, NC, on Sept. 29, 2017. Riha is concerned that a proposed Wake County school reassignment plan will have her two daughters, two grades apart, going to different schools. One would be on a traditional calendar year schedule; the other on year-round.

Chris Seward

"CCMMS" redirects here. For the museum with the abbreviation CCMMS, see Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society.

Wake County Public School System
5625 Dillard Drive
Cary, North Carolina27518
SuperintendentDel Burns, Ed.D
Enrollment159,549 (2016-2017)
AreaWake County, North Carolina
Teachers10,060 (as of Sept. 2014)
Budget$1.4 billion (Operating and Capital)

The Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) is a public school district located in Wake County, North Carolina. With 159,549 students enrolled in 171 schools as of the 2016-17 School year,[1] it is the largest public school district in North Carolina and the 15th largest district in the United States.[2][3]


The current school system is the result of a 1976 merger between the previous (historically largely white) Wake County school system and the former (historically largely minority) Raleigh City schools. The merger was proposed initially by business leaders in the early 1970s out of concerns that continued "white flight" from Raleigh's inner-city schools would negatively impact the county's overall economy. Political and educational leaders also hoped that merging the two systems would ease court-mandated desegregation. The proposal proved initially unpopular with residents, however, who rejected it by a 3-1 margin in a non-binding referendum in 1973. School and business leaders instead convinced the North Carolina General Assembly to force the merger.[4]

The district since has become notable for its integration efforts. Schools in the system are integrated based on the income levels reported by families on applications for federally subsidized school lunches, with the goal of having a maximum ratio of 40% low-income students at any one school. Consequently, thousands of suburban students are bused to magnet schools in poorer areas—and likewise, low-income students to suburban schools—to help maintain this income balance. Magnet schools are characterized as being public schools that specialize in a particular area, such as science or the arts, to encourage desegregation by drawing students from multiple neighbourhood and districts to the same school.[5] Professor Gerald Grant of Syracuse University used Wake County as a metaphor of hope in his 2009 book Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh.[6] Grant says, “The research is very clear that having the right mix of kids socioeconomically, as Wake County does, has enormous benefits for poor kids without hurting rich kids."[6] According to U.S. News and World Report, in 2005, 63.8% of low-income students in Wake County passed the state's end of high school exams, which was significantly higher than surrounding counties that do not have similar integration policies.[7]

The county's residents are divided in their support for the system's integration program due, partially, to some of the means of achieving that integration, such as long bus rides for many students and a lack of neighbourhood schools. Despite improved integration, test results among poorer students continue to lag: for the 2007-2008 school year, only 18% of the district's schools met the adequate yearly progress goals of the No Child Left Behind Act,[8] with only 71 percent passing state standardised tests.[9] Due to the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling restricting the use of race in assigning students, Wake has been cited as a model for how other school systems can still maintain diversity in enrollment.[10]

In the effort to maintain economic diversity and keep up with rapid growth in its student population, Wake routinely reassigns thousands of students each year to different schools.[11] Many parents object to this annual shuffle. For the 2008-09 school year, for example, the school district has stated that it will reassign some 6,464 students in order to affect a new system-wide policy designed to help schools in the same geographic area achieve similar economic demographics. This wave of changes will require the reassignment of many low-income students to schools that have greater proportion of higher-income students.[12] In February 2009, the school board approved a plan that would move 24,654 students to different schools over the next three years).[13] The newly elected board gained a 5:4 Republican majority and was successful in overturning the integration policy that had been operating in Wake County for years.[14]

There are currently 171 public schools in the system, consisting of 104 elementary (K-5), 33 Middle (6-8), 26 High (9-12), and 4 special/optional schools. With numerous new schools opening each year, the school board names new schools for a geographic feature (such as Holly Ridge) or for road where they are located (such as Athens Drive and Leesville Road) or for the geographic area they serve (such as Holly Springs High, Apex High and Garner High). The board, however, has recently tried to avoid naming schools after nearby subdivisions because such names may lead some residents to believe that the school is the "neighbourhood school." Unlike earlier times, schools are no longer named after people, which has proven to be controversial in the past. Schools named prior to the current naming policy, however, retain their existing non-geographic names.[15]

Year-round calendar[edit]

The Wake County Public School System made headlines in 2006 and 2007 for converting 19 elementary schools and three middle schools to a mandatory year-round calendar. It put more than a third of the elementary schools on the year-round calendar starting in July 2007. The decision was unpopular with some families who argued that the calendar switch should've been voluntary.[16] The switch to a year-round calendar in many schools has led to some unanticipated needs. For example, PTA chapters at some of the affected schools have considered the purchase of sun shades for playgrounds to provide shelter for students during North Carolina's hot and humid summer months.[17]

A group of parents sued[18] to block the school system from converting the schools.[19] In May 2007, Judge Howard Manning ruled that the school system may offer a year-round calendar, but that it must obtain informed consent from a student's parents before assigning the students to a year-round school. Approximately 9% of the affected students did not consent and were assigned to a traditional calendar school.[20] As a result, many year-round schools have empty seats and many traditional-calendar schools remain overcrowded.[21] In May 2008, the North Carolina Court of Appeals overturned the lower court decision, ruling that Wake does not need parental permission for students to attend year-round schools, but the State Supreme Court School agreed to hear the case and stayed the appellate decision until it makes a ruling.[22] District leaders sought consent for the 2008-09 school year but did not plan to do so the following year (2009–10).[23]

In October 2008, the school board voted to convert Baucom Elementary in Apex and Green Hope Elementary in Cary back to the traditional calendar, citing a less than expected increase in enrollment. Salem Elementary in Apex was also considered for conversion back to a traditional calendar but that move was voted against by the board. Also at that same meeting, the board voted to convert Leesville Road Middle in North Raleigh to a year-round calendar.[24]

In May 2009, the state Supreme Court ruled that parental consent is not needed to send students to year-round schools.[25] As a result, the school board decided to no longer seek consent.[26] But the election of new school board members in October 2009, who said they opposed mandatory year-round schools, caused the district to go back to asking parents for permission.[27]

Diversity controversy[edit]

National controversy arose in 2010 over the 5-4 decision of the Wake County School Board in March to switch from the socioeconomic diversification policy it had followed for a decade to a system that focused on neighbourhood schools.[28] The prior plan, under which the public schools of the county were to "have no more than 40 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch" was set aside for concerns over long student bus rides, but immediately raised comments among the public and the NAACP that the outcome of the shift would be to "resegregate" schools.[28] The decision led to protests spearheaded by the state NAACP chapter, with arrests in June and July,[29][30] and to the resignation of the superintendent of Wake County schools.[31] The NAACP lodged a civil rights complaint with the office of the United States Department of Education, which began an investigation into the matter.[31][32] The complaint also prompted one national accreditation agency, AdvancED, to evaluate the schools to see if the decision would impact the school's accreditation standing.[33][34]

In January 2011, the Washington Post featured a story on the controversy,[31] following which it and the Associated Press were provided a letter by United States Secretary of EducationArne Duncan, in which he wrote that it was "troubling to see North Carolina's Wake County school board take steps to reverse a long-standing policy to promote racial diversity in its schools" and "urge[d] school boards across America to fully consider the consequences before taking such action".[32][35] The situation was also lampooned on The Colbert Report.[36] According to the Washington Post, the decision has been backed by prominent members of the Tea Party movement.[31]

Some strides have been made towards compromise in Wake County between proponents and critics of the old integration plan. Michael Alves, an education consultant with 30 years of experience designing and implementing choice-based student assignment plans in districts across the United States, has developed an integration by achievement plan for Wake County. Integration by achievement will assign students to schools based on their previous achievements on standardised state test scores. Schools will have 70% of its students’ scores at or above the proficient level while the remaining 30% scores below the proficient level.[14] The plan stipulates that once a child is placed in a school, he or she cannot be reassigned during their time in that school. The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, the area’s largest business membership organisation, has suggested this plan to the Wake County school board.[37]


Main article: List of Wake County Schools

Demographic Background[edit]

The Wake County student body is[when?] split 51% male with a total of 80,318 students and 48.9% female representing a total of 76,862 students.

TotalAmerican IndianAsianBlackHispanicNative Hawaiian or Pacific IslandTwo or MoreWhite


  1. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-05-10. Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  2. ^Wake County schools have 149,528 studentsArchived 2012-09-15 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^"District Facts". 
  4. ^"Archived copy"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on 2007-12-02. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  5. ^"National Center on School Choice - Resources - Types of School Choice". 
  6. ^ ab"Gerald Grant on Wake County School Success". The Independent Weekly. 2009-05-21. Retrieved 2011-01-03. 
  7. ^"Taking a new course in class". US News and World Report. 2007-07-07. Retrieved 2011-09-04. 
  8. ^"Scores on state tests decline". The News & Observer. 2008-11-06. Retrieved 2008-12-09. [dead link]
  9. ^"Scores soften Wake's boast". The News & Observer. 2008-11-12. Archived from the original on May 26, 2009. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  10. ^"To Get Diversity, Some Schools May Look to Socioeconomic Class Rather Than Race". US News and World Report. 
  11. ^"Archived copy"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on 2008-07-06. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  12. ^ Retrieved February 6, 2008. [dead link]
  13. ^ Retrieved February 8, 2009. [dead link]
  14. ^ abWinerip, Michael (February 27, 2011). "Raleigh, N.C., Schools Struggle to Agree on Integration Plan". The New York Times. 
  15. ^WCPSS: Board Policy - Naming of Schools (2570)Archived 2007-02-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^"Wake Cares letter to School Board et al". Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  17. ^"Schools want sun shelters for hot kids". News and Observer. 2007-07-12. Retrieved 2007-07-14. [dead link]
  18. ^"Wake Cares Inc, vs. Wake County School Board et al". Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  19. ^T. Keung Hui (2007-03-14). "Parent Group Sues Wake Schools". The News & Observer. Retrieved 2008-11-14. [dead link]
  20. ^ Archived from the original on April 13, 2008. Retrieved July 8, 2007. 
  21. ^T. Keung Hui (2008-02-07). "Year-round school shuffle possible". The News & Observer. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  22. ^T. Keung Hui and Kinea White Epps (2008-08-28). "Wake's all-year lawsuit lives on". The News & Observer. Retrieved 2008-11-14. [dead link]
  23. ^T. Keung Hui and Kinea White Epps (2008-05-07). "Wake schools regain control over year-round plan". The News & Observer. Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  24. ^Hui, T. Keung (October 7, 2008). "2 Wake schools to end year-round schedule". News and Observer. [permanent dead link]
  25. ^[permanent dead link]
  26. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-05-07. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ abKhadaroo, Stacy Teicher (March 24, 2010). "Busing to end in Wake County, N.C. Goodbye, school diversity?". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  29. ^CNN (July 21, 2010). "School board protest ends with arrests". CNN. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  30. ^Bowens, Dan; Adam Owens; Anne Johnson; Kelly Gardner; Minnie Bridgers (July 20, 2010). "Tensions rise at Wake school board meeting; 19 arrested". WRAL-TV. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  31. ^ abcdMcCrummen, Stephanie (January 12, 2011). "Republican school board in N.C. backed by tea party abolishes integration policy". Washington Post. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  32. ^ abThe Associated Press (January 14, 2011). "US Schools Chief Criticizes NC Board Over Busing". NPR. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  33. ^Barron, Laura (September 23, 2010). "Agency Threatens to Pull Wake Schools Accreditation". NBC17. Retrieved January 18, 2011. 
  34. ^NBC17 Staff (January 11, 2011). "Wake Co. High Schools At Risk Of Losing Accreditation". NBC17. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  35. ^Duncan, Arne (January 13, 2011). "Maintaining racial diversity in schools". Washington Post. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  36. ^Chou, Renee; Kelly Hinchcliffe (January 19, 2011). "Comedian mocks Wake schools' assignment controversy". WRAL-TV. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  37. ^"About the Chamber - Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, Raleigh, North Carolina". 

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