FIVE things to consider when moving to change your kid’s base school

Earlier this year, I put a poll on Nextdoor (in the Cary area) asking why they moved to their current house.  I was shocked by the answer.  61% indicated they moved to be closer to desired schools.  Obviously, this number doesn’t represent ALL people – it was a small sample (125) and limited to a small area in Cary on a local platform. However, it emphasized to me the importance people in the area place on education.

Moving homes is a life-changing decision. Given my background as both a realtor and a former long-time educator and district senior administrator with Wake County Public Schools, I thought it would be helpful to go over the types of things to think about when making the decision to move so your child or children can be at a different base school.

Don’t trust a home listing….VERIFY the base school!



When realtors place listings into MLS, one option to add to the listing are schools assigned to the listing address. Some home search engines allow you to search homes by assigned school as well. But just remember, realtors and sellers are human and make mistakes when entering this info. Many realtors are unaware of where to find the assigned school for their listings.

However, there is no systemic check to make sure it’s correct. There is one way to determine correct school assignments and that’s to contact student assignment or go to the district website. For Wake County Public Schools (WCPSS), you can verify assigned schools by going here:

Here, you can type in the address of the home you are considering to get a list of schools assigned to that address. You can even pull up the current assignment map for that school. But be careful, because even if the address is assigned to your desired school, your child may not be able to attend because you must…..

Make sure the school is NOT capped!

As of 1/22/19, WCPSS was up to 21 capped schools which means after a certain date, even if you move to the attendance area for a school, if the school is capped, you may be sent to a different “overflow” school. If that is the case, you may see something like this on the address lookup site:

Does it mean your student definitely won’t be going to their assigned capped school? Not necessarily, as spots do open up. However, it means there is no absolute guarantee that the student will be able to attend the school even if you move into the assigned area for your desired school.

Things can and will change! Consider new schools opening in the area.

So, you may be moving to an area where new schools are scheduled to open. When that happens, base assignments may change drastically to accommodate the new school.

Take my home neighborhood of Highcroft for example. When my family moved here, the assigned high school was Panther Creek HS (PCHS). With Green Level HS opening for new students in 2019-20 (it houses Apex HS students now), my neighborhood is now assigned to Green Level HS for incoming 9th and 10th graders. Why just 9th and 10th graders? WCPSS does not want to disrupt the high school assignment or continuity for students already at different high schools. For incoming 11th and 12th graders, PCHS continues to be the assignment for the neighborhood. You can see a list of current WCPSS projects including new school development and renovations here:

Just keep in mind that new school openings have a ripple effect which lead to changes especially as you get closer in proximity to the new school locations.

Consider siblings, calendars, secondary school path, and special education

Many parents want to keep siblings together. WCPSS wants that too by giving priority to keep siblings together. However, if there is an age gap, this may create some issues. Take the example of an older sibling who starts attending ABC high school. The younger sibling is assigned to ABC middle school which feeds into ABC high school. The neighborhood school assignment changes to feed DEF high school. The younger sibling is a rising 9th grader. She gets priority to still attend ABC high school if she wants but all of her friends and neighbors will be attending DEF high schools.

Then there is the calendar issue. Let’s say you move your elementary student from a traditional calendar school to a year round school. Your middle schooler will be at a traditional calendar school. The calendars now don’t match up for your kids which definitely may put additional burden on schedules and vacations.

If you have a student in special education that requires regional programming or specialized instruction that is not available at their neighborhood school, the student may be assigned or may need to attend a school outside their base assignment.

Don’t assume the best school for your student is the one with the highest test scores

We want the best for our children. When it comes to the best school for students, we frequently turn to what is quantifiable. If you want to look at details around a school, the North Carolina Department of Instruction issued “report cards” for each school in the state. Here is a link to the report cards for Wake County Schools (up to 2016-17):

WCPSS even has school progress reports you can see for 2017-18.

However, from my years as an educator and a district administrator that could look at schools from a macro-view, I can tell you that quality of education doesn’t necessarily match school report cards or proficiency rates.

In fact, my own kids have attended a number of schools and we have been most satisfied with the education of our kids from a school that was given a “C” by NCDPI than we were by schools that were given an “A”. There are SO many factors that go into a quality school experience and it goes WAY beyond just test scores.

As you can see, there are a LOT of factors that go into making the decision to move in order to get your child into a particular school or area. This is an amazing area with terrific schools. Before making the jump, be sure you have carefully thought things through. If you do, I’m sure you will be able to find a home (and school) where you and your family will be happy!

Please leave comments and feedback below. If you have ANY questions about this topic or are considering moving in order for your kids to attend a different school and would like help navigating the decision or looking for the right homes in a new area, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or call (919) 559-3729.