Understanding Wake County Public Schools

by | Mar 11, 2024

How do you ever begin to navigate choosing a school in Wake County? With over 200 schools, WCPSS is the largest school system in the entire southeast. There’s a lot to consider when you kids are hitting school age. Even more to consider when you are relocating to The Triangle and are used to school districts & neighborhood schools.

Here are the TOP FIVE QUESTIONS you should ask when considering a school in Wake County:

1. CALENDAR: What calendar option do you want to be on? Traditional, Year-Round, Whole School Track 4, or Modified. (Expert Tip: Be sure to look at NEXT year’s Calendars too.)

2. TRANSPORTATION: Do you have transportation for your school option? If you are at your base school, you should have access to the bus system. However, in some cases, you might be required to adhere to a carpool situation, have an express stop, or walk to your designated location— so you need to decide the feasibility for your family. (Expert Tip: Check out the Here Comes The Bus app that WCPSS has for parents to stay in the know on their student’s bus situation.)

3. TYPE OF SCHOOL: Are you looking for public, charter, private, or magnet? Public is based on where you live and you are assigned to a BASE school. You are allowed to apply to the opposite calendar option of your base school. (i.e. traditional can apply for year-round, and vice versa.) CHARTER and MAGNET are similar to public in that they are free options, but these are both application schools. Magnet requires that you must attend if accepted (giving up your base school seat), while charter allows you to decide if you accept your seat upon admittance. PRIVATE is an additional choice that is outside of WCPSS. They range in cost, calendars, and locations. (Expert Tip: Be aware of enrollment caps when looking at your base school option. You might be sent to an overflow school nearby if your base school is at capacity.)

4. TIMELINE: What is your timeline? You need to decide how long you have to apply, get acceptance, and make a decision. Some options, like charter or private have application deadlines you have to meet, but your physical address can change in the interim. Magnet school options also have application deadlines, but you’ll need to be in your permanent residence when you apply. (Expert Tip: WCPSS requires a Wake County address in order to apply for either your base school or a magnet option. Check out the enrollment info & the FAQ info for more. Also, be aware of application deadlines for all schools.)

5. CAPPED SCHOOLS: Do you know if your base school is capped? As stated above, some schools in our county have a cap on them. This means that they are currently at capacity, and even if you live inside that school’s base map, there isn’t room for your student to go there. You could be sent to an overflow school, which is typically close by. You also need to know a school’s cap date, meaning that if you bought a home AFTER that cap date, you are within the group that could possibly get sent to the overflow school. Some cap dates have existed for over a decade. (Expert Tip: Keep up with the county list of capped schools, because they get approved every school year and sometimes change.)

Overall- WCPSS allows families to CHOOSE their school for their child. This is huge because if you realize that a school environment that your home is zoned for is NOT the best fit, you have options!



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