August 18, 2020

WS/FC Schools: 25 Years Of “Choice”

Yesterday was the Winston-Salem /Forsyth County Schools’ first day of classes. Due to the coronavirus, students are learning remotely via Zoom, instead of in the classrooms. With all the talk about the coronavirus this year, little to no attention has been given to the topic of school “choice.” This month marks the 25th anniversary of the WS/FC School’s controversial school “choice program,” first implemented by then-Superintendent, Don Martin in 1995. NC Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield has called WS/FCS’ choice system “a case study in school re-segregation.” Even WFDD can’t deny that our school system has been resegregated by “choice.”

The current school board chair, Malishai Woodbury, and other members of the once mislabeled “equity board” have been critical of WS/FCS’ choice system. But they’ve stopped short of attempting to amend or replace it.

“Parents can choose from their neighborhood schools, another school in their zones or from 15 magnet programs. High school students can earn college credit in more than 30 Advanced Placement courses, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, and courses at local colleges and universities.

At every school, students are led by teachers and staff members dedicated to helping them grow as students and people. Parents, students, schools and the community work together to build the leaders of tomorrow.

Elementary and middle schools are divided into zones, and families can choose from among the schools in their residential schools each spring during the Schools of Choice process. To learn more about how students are assigned to schools and how you can choose a school, please visit the Student Assignment page.

To see what your residential schools and zones are, please use the school locator, a website that uses your home address to determine your schools and zones. School locations and directions can be found on the School Directory page.” -WS/FC Schools

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School’s “choice” or “neighborhood” school system is complicated, but it’s substantially less complicated than court-ordered busing. But say what you will about busing, busing did integrate a segregated school system. “Choice” has reversed many of the gains made over previous decades. Integration is a goal that our public school system has largely abandoned. We have segregated schools because we are a segregated city and county. Often white parents are so narrowly focused on what they think is best for their kids’ future, that they ignore school segregation. Over a decade ago, WS/FC Schools attempted to merge Cook and Brunson. The backlash from white parents enraged that their Harvard-bound kids would be sent to a traditionally Black school was enough to put a halt to that project.

 

In recent years the term “equity” has been embraced by members of the WS/FC School Board. An equity argument was used to get an $11 million gymnasium built at Wiley Middle. But all the talk of equity hasn’t reduced school segregation in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County. It hasn’t gotten a new school built for Ashley or kept the County from giving Kaledieum $31.5 million (funds that should have gone to at-risk students). We presently have too many schools in East Winston packed with an extremely high percentage of Black and Latinx students receiving free and reduced lunches and substantially more white, more affluent schools in the western portion of WS/FC. Segregation by choice will remain the policy in Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, until we have the political will to confront it.
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