MONROE, NC (WBTV) - Union County Public Schools (UCPS) is doing something new this school year. School leaders have decided to implement a school choice program.
Parents will be able to pick any school for their kids to attend as long as it is on the superintendent's list and the student population is less than 90 percent of the capacity.
The superintendent will provide a list of school options each year.
On the list this year is Fairview Elementary, Porter Ridge Elementary, Waxhaw Elementary, Walter Bickett Elementary, Wesley Chapel Elementary, Western Union Elementary, East Union Middle, Parkwood Middle, and Monroe Middle.
The principal at Parkwood Middle School says parents have already reached out to him about attending his school this school year.
"There's a lot more options out there now," Parkwood Middle School Principal Jeff Kraftson said. "We've got charter schools. You've got private schools. You got public schools and even home schools and it was the opportunity to provide parents with more options."
Last year, Parkwood Middle School had a student population of more than 900. This year's expected enrollment could drop to less than 800.
The decrease in students happened because of the recent student realignment plan. Some students were reassigned to different schools and that caused some schools to be underutilized.
The state gives Parkwood MS a "C" because of test scores. The principal has plans for the school and says he will market his school to attract more students.
Kraftson says there will be an emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and problem solving this school year at Parkwood.
"One of the things we want to do is prepare our students how do you not just can answer questions correctly," the principal said. "But when you face real life issues - when you go out in the work world are you able to problem solve."
The principal also says his school will provide something no other middle school in Union County can.
The school has a Career Development Coordinator. The Coordinator will engage teachers and reach each student to prepare them for life after middle school.
"This is an opportunity for them to find out now, in middle school, what they need to do as it relates to finding out if they want to go to college - what college they want to go - to a community college or military," Career Development Coordinator Brian Elliott said.
School choice may sound good, but for some parents they have questions.
"I was kind of on the fence about it," Parkwood Middle School Parent Sarah Verde said. "I am still on the fence about it."
Verde is concerned Parkwood Middle School may go from an underutilized school to an overcrowded school if it's open to all.
She wants the school to keep its low student/teacher ratio but understands if parents are allowed to attend Parkwood Middle School.
"I think it's great for kids who need a better school choice," the parent said. "Like down in Monroe and other towns."
The lottery for admission to the schools goes from July 25 to August 1. Parents will find out the results of the lottery on August 6.
If permission is granted, the parent must provide transportation to the school of choice.
Once a transfer has been granted under this policy it will remain in effect until the terminal grade in that school location (5th, 8th and 12th).
Parents can apply for the lottery by completing the application process by clicking here.