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First Day of School, Another Day of Confusion for Wake Students

Few things are more nerve racking than the first day of school.  Children worry about their new classmates.  They wonder if the teacher is mean or tough.  They worry if they can do the work that is asked of them when advancing a grade.  Of course, parents worry too.  They move into Wake County for the excellent educational reputation (which has lost some of its luster in recent years).  Still, they are anxious about turning their children over to another new school year.

The concerns of students and their parents assume that the child can get to school.  On the first day of school, Wake County Public Schools System’s (WCPSS) transportation plan was, to put it plainly, a mess.  Even though the legislature cut funding for transportation, Wake parents and students should not have suffered through this.

According to an article in the News & Observer [1], Wake County reduced the number of buses to obtain state funding in yet another confusing formula [2] where schools receive a benefit for efficiency.

If the state sees what happened on the first day of school, there is not anyway that Wake County could possibly receive funding for efficiency.  Parents and students were at bus stops waiting for buses that were late or that never came at all.  School transportation is not mass transit, yet parents were asking where buses were going as if they were at Moore Square Bus Station.

The News & Observer article also states that Bob Snidemiller, WCPSS Senior Director of Transportation knew why people were confused.   The periodical states:

The transportation chief acknowledged that parents were confused and bus drivers were delayed by:

•  Routes that haven’t been completely drawn out,

•  The decision to double up schools on some routes,

•  Changes that moved many stops to main roads instead of the loops and circles of suburbia, and

•  Celebratory parades at several high schools.

The first day of school does not sneak up on anyone.  Neither did the growth in the school district.  It certainly should not sneak up on WCPSS personnel, particularly not Superintendent Tony Tata who said voters have to “cowboy up” [3] to fund schools because of the growth in the county.

There is nothing in WCPSS’s recent past that would suggest that something like this transportation failure would be out of the realm of possibility.

Changes to Student Assignment Policy Contributes to Chaos

When Policy 6200, the diversity plan, was jettisoned, there were years of confusion about how students would be assigned.  Month after month passed while board member John Tedesco failed to carry out his charge to present a new student assignment plan. In fact, in one PowerPoint presentation [4] he stated, “THIS IS NOT THE PLAN” twice on one slide.  Thankfully, he never got a chance to complete what started.  Instead, after hundreds of thousands of dollars and wasted years, all Wake parents and students have is more uncertainty under “the choice plan.”

Parents had and are having difficulty registering their children [5].  They have to travel to the central office in Cary, where public transportation options are limited, and wait for hours just to be given very limited choices.

If creating an assignment plan was confusing and registering a student is frustrating, it is not hard to believe that transporting children to school would be chaotic.  Students are forced to reap what elected representatives have sown.  It is unacceptable.

No parent should have to worry about when their child is coming home.  The largest school district in the state has to do better than this.  Parents should not have to “cowboy up” for the safe passage for their children to and from school.  It should be expected.