New school creating more concerns in Wake

January 25, 2011 8:46:38 PM PST
A big decision by the Wake County School Board is drawing criticism.The controversy surrounds the calendar being chosen for the new Walnut Creek Elementary and the moves being made to fill it.

When Walnut Creek Elementary opens off Rocky Quarry Road in Raleigh next year, the school board wants it to be on a traditional calendar with a long summer break.

"Most of the families in that community would prefer a traditional calendar because of the additional childcare burden during track out and that kind of thing," School Board Member Keith Sutton said.

School board members Carolyn Morrison, Deborah Prickett and John Tedesco voted for the school to be year-round saying research shows high poverty students retain more information when attending school year-round with shorter breaks throughout the year.

"Some research has said this is a way to close the achievement gap and I'm always looking at ways to close the achievement gap," Morrison said.

Morrison also said she is concerned Walnut Creek could end up being a segregated school as students who were assigned to the western part of the county under the old diversity policy are now being moved closer to where they live under the new policy.

"I think it could happen," she said. "I think it definitely could happen in South Raleigh."

"What we're doing is moving students to schools closer to their homes," School Board Chair Ron Margiotta said.

He also says that these families haven't objected. But critics of the board do object.

"The ramifications of moving high poverty students into downtown Raleigh, they're not going to have an education like the rest of the children in Wake County," Diana Bader with Great Schools in Wake said. "They're going to have a separate and unequal education and that's just morally wrong."

The NAACP says it shares those concerns.

On Tuesday night, about 200 people gathered at Martin Street Baptist Church to rally around public education and express their concerns over the direction of Wake County Schools.

"Separate, but equal was wrong yesterday, it's wrong today," NC NAACP President Rev. William Barber said. "The issue is whether we're going to focus on 'we' instead of 'they.' We will not turn backwards. Forward together, not one step back."

Barber and other critics believe the school board's decision to take diversity out of student assignment will lead to the re-segregation of schools.

Rev. Barber says they will have a march through downtown Raleigh on Feb. 12. He says he is hoping for a turnout in the thousands.

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