Wake County schools may revive assignment "node" system

Some schools are simply too crowded, school officials say.
May 1, 2014 6:51:39 PM PDT
The Wake County School System is considering bringing back the controversial student assignment "node" system.

They say some schools are simply too crowded.

The idea isn't new. The School Board tried the idea several years ago before the recession hit. And with some schools in Wake County busting at the seams, parents say it would be a relief.

"My son will be in the portable classroom next year and likely the following year," said parent Joni Klem.

Klem fears the problem will only get worse at Highcroft Drive Elementary. The school is already 15 percent over capacity, but it is slated to get another six classroom modular units next year as western Cary continues to rapidly grow.

"I worry about their education," Klem said.

That is one of the reasons Wake County School Board members are re-considering spot nodes -- or reassigning students in new subdivisions near crowed schools.

"It would give their customers and their sales force clarity about what their school assignment's going to be as opposed to dealing with uncertainty that comes when a school is capped," said Wake County School Board member Bill Fletcher.

School board members are debating several ideas for a new student assignment plan. It won't start until the 2015-2016 school year. But instead of the proposed three-year model, staff now is considering a year-to-year plan with minimal changes.

While board members say parents want more stability when it comes to where their child goes to school, they also say the plan won't solve all of the district's problems.

"You can't write every law or policy to take care of every eventuality," said Wake County School Board member Jim Martin.

But a new state bill could throw the district a curve ball. A legislative subcommittee wants students to be able to attend any school in the state, without getting permission from their current district or having to pay a tuition fee.

"I have no idea how we would approach trying to implement something like that, and I don't think the taxpayers of Wake County would want to build schools that then could be occupied by folks from other counties just because there's an open seat," Fletcher said.

That bill will go to a full committee next week, but it is too soon to know whether the bill would get recommended to the General Assembly this month. As for the student assignment plan in Wake County, school board members plan to gather input from parents before making decisions.


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