One of the most challenging differences that people relocating to the Triangle encounter is learning how the school system works, since it is vastly different from many parts of the country. School districts in North Carolina are countywide, meaning that each county is considered a school district, as opposed to the town or city where you live. While there are several other districts in the area, the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) is the largest school system in the state, and one of the largest in the United States. Here is a guide to navigating the school system.
Do not make housing decisions based on school assignments
Due to the unbelievable growth of the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area, new schools are being built and school assignments are constantly changing to accommodate the continuous influx of students. If you choose a home based on the school it is zoned for, you may be disappointed as the zoning maps are updated on a yearly basis.
Find your base school
Each home is zoned for a base school, which acts as a central point for any registration and administrative activities. You can find your base school by your address using the Base School Locator, which also provides maps showing the zones for each school for the current year and the next (once approved by the school board).
Explore magnet schools
If your child has a specific interest, consider magnet schools. Each magnet school has a different theme, such as International Baccalaureate or Leadership and Technology and several offer language immersion programs. These schools aim to bridge the gap between students of varying socioeconomic backgrounds while providing expanded educational opportunities. Magnet applications for the upcoming school year are accepted through the end of January, so it is important to keep an eye of due dates for submitting the application. For more information, visit the WCPSS Magnet School website.
Year-round vs Traditional
Several schools in Wake County are on a year-round schedule, with most of them located on the western side of Wake County. The school year is broken into quarters, and students receive a three-week break at the end of each. If your base school is not on a year-round schedule and you would prefer your children to be, you can apply for a year-round school during the magnet application process. Many schools are also on a traditional schedule, so you will want to make sure you know what calendar your particular school is on in advance.
There are several private and charter school options available
If you are looking for some additional choices, there is a wide variety of private and charter schools throughout the county. Charter schools are independently run and have the flexibility to design their curriculum to meet their students’ needs. Many of the charter schools are free and publicly funded, which means that they need to meet NC statewide educational standards. To explore private and public options, check out sites like https://www.greatschools.org/ or https://www.niche.com/ for parent reviews and rankings.
Check your school’s report card
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides school report cards for every school in the state. The report card is fairly comprehensive and gives a fairly detailed picture of the school’s performance, such as student test performance and per pupil source of funding. You can search for a school on the NCDPI school report card website.
Navigating the Wake County Public School System can be stressful and challenging, however a little bit of research can save a lot of time and aggravation as you prepare for registering your children for school. Since the school system works very differently than a lot of parts of the country, the more information that you can gather the better off you will be for the upcoming year.