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Frank Porter Graham Elementary will begin magnet conversion

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education will have their first meeting of the 2012-13 school year on Thursday, but the dual-language program is not on the agenda.

Though the transition of Frank Porter Graham Elementary School to a magnet school will not finish until the 2013-14 school year, it will enroll two kindergarten and first grade dual-language classes this year.

The application for students who wish to join the Spanish dual-language program at Frank Porter Graham this year was due July 13.

Frank Porter Graham students will receive preference for the program — but the application was open to all eligible students in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

In June, the school board voted 5-1 to convert Frank Porter Graham into a magnet school.

Board members said the conversion will help reduce overcrowding in other elementary schools in the district and expand the Spanish dual-language program.

Neighborhood students at Frank Porter Graham will eventually be redistricted.

School officials said they weren’t sure how many applications were received for Frank Porter Graham’s dual-language program this year, or how many will be accepted. Human resources director for the district Arasi Adkins and dual-language coordinator Jose Nambo were not available Tuesday for comment.

But Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese said most, if not all of the available spaces, will be given to current families at Frank Porter Graham.

“The impact on families is going to be minimal this year,” he said.

Transportation Director Jim Ellis said if any district students are added to Frank Porter Graham’s dual-language program this year, the effect on the bus system will be minimal.

“If you were at FPG last year, you will be at FPG this year,” Ellis said. “There might be a few added, but that number is minute.”

Ellis said the bus routes for the district will be finalized in August and will be available online for parents to see when they are released.

LoFrese said the district will also form a team to help with Frank Porter Graham’s transition to a magnet school, which will be made up of parents and staff members.

Many parents with children currently at Frank Porter Graham are against the transition.

Andrew Davidson, a parent and member of Frank Porter Graham’s school improvement team, said he disagreed with the plan.

“This isn’t traditional redistricting,” he said. “This is a redistricting being forced on the students for the purposes of the magnet school.”

Davidson said his two children would stay at the school this year, but he said his younger child will likely be redistricted for the 2013-14 school year.

Board member Mike Kelley said there were two driving factors in his decision to vote for the transition — the accessibility of the program to the entire district and the necessity to expand it.

“This is likely to change the dynamic of the school,” he said. “But that isn’t something that doesn’t happen naturally.

Despite controversy, Kelley said he stood by the decision.

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“I think that it’s a change that will be good in the end,” he said.

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