Cris Mulder 0

Does it make sense to keep Highcroft Drive Elementary Year-Round?

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Does it make sense to keep Highcroft Drive Elementary Year-Round?

With the recent Wake County School Board decision to convert Mills Park Middle to traditional schedule, families in the Highcroft Drive Elementary school attendance zone will now force families to either send their children to split school calendar year schedules, or apply for a transfer to the traditional elementary school option or year-round middle school option.

For these reasons, as concerned parents involved in our school and neighborhood communities, we are petitioning the Wake County School Board to consider the following facts and support one of the two following actions for the 2010-11 school year:

- Convert Highcroft to traditional calendar to follow the assigned traditional middle school feeder path, or

- Shift surrounding nodes to ensure available seats to traditional elementary option (Mills Park Elementary) and middle school year round option (Salem Middle School).

The publicized options are Weatherstone Elementary (located 7 miles away) and East Cary Middle School (located nearly 10 miles away) – NOT the anticipated Mills Park Elementary (located 2 miles away) and prior to Mills Park Middle opening our previously assigned Salem Middle School (located less than 5 miles away).


Facts: Year round conversion of schools, including Highcroft, were made due to the exploding student enrollment for the 2006-07 school year that exceeded growth projections. However, growth rates slowed significantly in the 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2009-10 school years as national and local economic growth slowed and moved into recession. This has impacted and affected all the benefits of year round school operations for Highcroft Drive Elementary in the following ways:

>>Under utilization impacts ability to meet differentiated instructional needs

Based on the utilization report presented to the School Board on January 5, 2010, Highcroft is only at 72% capacity.

- Tracks 2 and 3 have only one class per track, while popular tracks 1 and 4 are over capacity with student-teacher ratios at an all time high: some at 31-1. Year round enrollment is so low that in some grade levels, there is only one-class per track. 

- This has limited differentiated instruction in an optimal capacity. Parents do not have choices in teachers or to shift students to load balance ability and student dynamics.

- Enrollment may further decline as split calendar schedules for families is challenging and forces them to choose private school options or transfer.

- Teachers may be challenging to retain or recruit as many have children in the system (or even at the school) who are currently in year round schools and are shifting to traditional calendars due to recent board decisions.

- We have a strong PTA and involved parents in the classroom. But as a result of these decisions, many parents are being forced to choose other options, weakening the base of parents who are able to volunteer and contribute financially.

>>Current options are no longer in our neighborhood zone

Highcroft is a walk-in community school, with only five school buses required to transport the 772 student population. Mills Park Elem, Turner Creek, Morrisville, and Carpenter are all accessible by a main thoroughfare on the outside perimeter of a neighborhood, while Highcroft is completely enclosed within the Highcroft neighborhood. As a result of maintaining Highcroft as an application year round school, the following will occur:

- High administrative costs associated with track changes and transfer requests due to split family schedules.

- Additional budget for bus transportation of application, transfer students or further node shifts to bring a greater student population to an eroding one due to split calendar schedules of maturing families.

- This decision has an economic impact to our neighborhoods as home buyers will not want to choose a split calendar option for their families, as well as higher traffic to bus in application students and bus out transferring students.

- Truly breaking up a walk-in neighborhood as many families have children now on traditional tracks, forcing applications to Mills Park Elementary and Salem Middle, while further frustrating parents as they are turned away because these schools are ALREADY at capacity.

Our principal, teachers and staff have done an amazing job weathering over the last 6 years of change: the opening of a brand new traditional calendar year school and doubling enrollment within a year and needing to expand with 9 trailer classrooms, to converting to a year-round calendar with exploding enrollment, to losing nearly a 1/3 of its students to Mills Park Elementary, to now having to manage through yet another polarizing shift in forcing parents to choose between family schedules and strong schools.

Our school community in large part was in favor of our year round school because of the initial benefits to student learning AND because our families were on the same calendar years through both elementary and middle school. What the survey results indicated was that we were in favor of student learning. We were in favor of stability. We were in favor of options that included a same feeder school calendar option for both elementary and middle. We were in favor of keeping families on the same schedule. And we were in favor of continuing to build upon our community and draw upon the strengths of our school-parent involvement. We should not have to choose one over the other.

Take action:

- Convert Highcroft to traditional calendar to follow the assigned traditional middle school feeder path, or

- Shift surrounding nodes to ensure available seats to our traditional elementary option (Mills Park Elementary) and our middle school year round option (Salem Middle School).

Do not force families on split school calendar schedules. Consider all the facts. Look at the data. And make the decision to provide our children with an excellent education AND a strong home foundation.

Cris Mulder, Highcroft neighborhood
Donna Reist, The Reserve neighborhood


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