The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board approved Tuesday an assignment plan for students who choose not to return to Middle Fork Elementary School next fall when the school becomes a laboratory school in partnership with Appalachian State University.

Middle Fork Elementary is one of nine schools in North Carolina selected to partner with a state university as part of a turnaround effort. All of the schools selected are low-performing K-8 schools.

Middle Fork Elementary will be in this partnership for the next five years, and will be known as Appalachian State University Academy at Middle Fork with a literary focus.

The assignment plan is necessary because the new lab school will require its students to enroll in order to attend, or to opt out to a different school. Because the school building will be under Appalachian State’s jurisdiction, students who are choosing to enroll in the lab school will be choosing to leave WSFCS.

The nearby Ibraham, Mineral Springs and Walkertown elementary schools will serve as the new residential schools for students who opt out of the lab school. Ashley Academy for Cultural and Global Studies was not included due to existing capacity concerns, Superintendent Beverly Emory said.

“We hope that if they want to stay they will apply and go to Middle Fork and stay at their neighborhood school,” Emory said. “But, because the school will no longer be in the jurisdiction of this Board of Education, we must give those children a new residential school.”

Information presented to the board members showed variations of how many additional students could be added to those three other schools, since it is unclear at this time how many students may decide to enroll in the lab school versus stay within the district.

“Right now, this is a moving target,” Emory said, adding that 169 current Middle Fork students have put in applications to stay at the school.

After the board meeting, Tasha Hall-Powell, principal of Middle Fork, said they’ll be able to take up to 315 students before going to a wait list. The school’s 2017-18 enrollment is listed at 327.

Students currently attending Middle Fork will receive first priority over others in the district. The enrollment process will close in April.

“We expect that number will grow… but we have to plan for that so that each of these kiddos and families have an assigned residential school,” Emory said.

Notices of the changes in residential schools will be sent out to families, Emory said.

Even though the school will fall under Appalachian State’s jurisdiction, the district still owns the facility.

“We are working on memorandums of understanding that cover transportation and food services and all the things that the folks at the university level may not have realized, like security and fire drills…,” Emory said. “And at least to date, they have indicated that instead of them worrying about those operational things, they would like to contract with us for them.”

Emory said a formal memorandum of understanding will be presented to the board.

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