Wake County Schools

Growing, financial pains evident in Wake school calendar discussion

Posted September 2, 2014

— The district’s growing pains and financial shortcomings were evident during a Wake County Board of Education work session Tuesday afternoon as board members discussed changing the academic calendars at five schools to address over- and under-crowding.

Most of the conversation centered on Mills Park elementary and middle schools, which are both under a traditional 10-month calendar, but under a proposed plan would either be converted to a multi-track calendar or receive 21 modular classrooms (9 elementary, 12 middle) to alleviate overcrowding.

Mills Park parents are not interested in switching calendars, said board member Susan Evans, whose district includes both Cary schools.

“They are worried about (multiple) kids at two, three schools that have to change their schedules,” she said. “They’re looking at that they’ve already had their schedules changed once and now here we go again (with switching schedules). There’s so many emotions from the Mills Park community regarding even contemplating such a change. We have to consider very heavily the impact of families and the impact of stability.”

One of those parents, Jennifer Langdon, said west Cary families do not want any school calendar changes.

"The people in our community prefer to have traditional schools," she said following Tuesday night's school board meeting. "There is a lot of different options they can choose, but parents do not want to see another change."

Adding modular classrooms would cost more than $2 million. Infrastructure fees to the Town of Cary and traffic modifications would be additional millions.

“Everybody’s shocked that a developer can come in and build housing where there’s no infrastructure,” said board member Jim Martin, who suggested asking town officials to waive the fees. “We can’t bear all the costs. We don’t have the revenue to bear all the costs.”

Tuesday’s discussion follows a district facilities committee meeting where the calendar changes were proposed to help balance the student population:

  • Ballentine Elementary, currently a multi-track year-round school at 65 percent capacity, would lose its temporary classrooms and one of its tracks to boost capacity to 75 percent. The move would save $245,000 and eliminate six teacher positions. A new elementary school is planned for the area in 2018, but funding is yet to be determined.
  • Wakefield Elementary, currently a multi-track year-round school at 91 percent capacity, would be converted to a traditional calendar. The move would place the school in sync with the calendars at Wakefield middle and high schools. While it would increase the elementary school’s capacity to 108 percent, if all of the school’s 10 temporary classrooms are used, it would bring capacity below 100 percent. Abbotts Creek Elementary is scheduled to open in 2015 to help reduce overcrowding in the area.
  • Alston Ridge Elementary, a single-track year-round school at 112 percent capacity, would be converted to a multi-track school, which would reduce capacity to 85 percent. In addition, temporary classrooms could be added. The move would result in a cost of $32,000 for year-round carts and $160,000 for two temporary classrooms. A new elementary school is scheduled to open in the area in 2017 to help reduce overcrowding.
  • Mills Park elementary and middle schools are at 111 percent and 116 percent capacity, respectively. Converting to a multi-track calendar would drop capacity to 85 percent and 97 percent, respectively. Temporary classrooms would reduce capacity to 91 and 97 percent, respectively. A new elementary school in 2016 and two middle schools, Pine Hollow in 2016 and a second school in 2019 or later, are scheduled to be built in the area to reduce overcrowding.

Schools using a multi-track year-round calendar can enroll more students by operating on four separate tracks. Each track runs for about nine weeks, followed by a three-week break. The tracks are staggered so three tracks can operate at any given time.

The proposed calendar changes come as the district is also considering a student enrollment plan that would adjust attendance zones for 63 current schools to alleviate overcrowding and help fill 17 new schools the district plans to build over the next four years.

Officials project the district will grow by 18,000 students over the next four years. To address the influx of students, three schools are scheduled to open in 2015 (two elementary, one high), five in 2016 (four elementary, one middle), six in 2017 (five elementary, one high) and three in 2018 (two middle, one high).

Even with the projections, board member Bill Fletcher said the district is already playing catch-up.

“We’re getting ready to experience north of whatever the plan we thought we were going to have,” he said. “We’re behind now, and here’s the truth, based on the projections after everything we build, we’ll be just as far behind. And if the projections are low, we will be further behind. That’s the reality from where we sit today.”

School board members are expected to vote on the proposed changes by Sept. 16, but it will not be an easy decision to make, board member Tom Benton said.

“We can’t always look at our decisions just from a business perspective as our County Commissioners want us to,” he said. “We have to look at the intangible impacts on families and children. It’s not always dollars and cents or what is going to be the cheapest, which makes it very tough.”


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  • Joseph Smith Sep 3, 2014
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    utter nonsense. When you get paid in cash you don't pay social security and medicare. Wake up.

  • John Booker Sep 3, 2014
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    "but under a proposed plan would either be converted to a multi-track calendar"

    That should read "converted BACK to a multi-track calendar". The population study was done properly years ago. MP-ES, AR-ES and HC-ES are SUPPOSED to be multi-track year round schools which would feed, year-round MPMS.

    Residents hated it and under Tata's leadership, the multi-track was removed.

    Now we are at a crossroads... build more schools or revert to the plan. One of those choices will cost a lot more than the other.

  • babbleon Sep 3, 2014

    For people interested in year-round schools, especially high school implementation, it is being done:

  • 50s Child Sep 3, 2014

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    Sounds good. After all, we already buy iPads for the kids because they MUST become tech-savvy.

  • Shamrock Sep 3, 2014

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    Because it is getting more positive now that the republicans are no longer causing turmoil.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Sep 3, 2014

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    Why do you believe that?

    Because, Illegal immigration is GOOD for the U.S. economy. All that money that illegal immigrants pay into OUR social security...they can never get back.

    Economist William Ford of Middle Tennessee State Univ. calculates that illegal immigrants contributed $428 billion dollars to the nation's $13.6 trillion GDP in 2006.

    Beyond income tax, they pay the full Social Sec. & Medicare taxes due - that they can never get back. The SSA estimates that about 3/4 of illegal workers pay taxes that contribute to the overall solvency of Social Security and Medicare.

    Ford said, "If anything we need more immigrants coming into the country, not less, especially with the baby boomers retiring."


  • LetsBeFair Sep 3, 2014

    nice work ... when you fire people like Tony Tata and let $250,000 walk, and for no other reason than you just didn't like his political affiliation -- its a wonder your still in business.
    I took my kids out of public school. had enough.

  • AppStgrad Sep 3, 2014

    Over crowding has been an issue in Wake for many decades, but the county and towns have continued to add new neighborhoods left and right? Why not slow growth a little and give the schools some breathing room? And if anyone moves into Wake Co and complains about their school or schedule, their complaints should fall on deaf ears, no sympathy for someone who didn't do their research!

  • babbleon Sep 3, 2014

    Year-round schools cost less per student. Wake Co parents need to either accept more YR schools or elect people who will take taxes back to 1990s levels and put that money into public schools.

    WCPSS is trying to balance a LOT of variables - cost, learning outcomes, parent satisfaction and more. They used to be able to put learning and parent sat ahead of cost - that's why diversity, and why we moved YR schools back to traditional calendar (cf: Save Our Summer campaign).

    Student reassignments were the real problem we had, driven by growth and by prioritizing cost over student satisfaction. That wedge let Pope, Luddy and Koch bros buy the school board and put us in a hole, which the NCGA then dug deeper.

    ps: We do have a limited number of base school plans, and we never did much busing, so just stop. Stop spreading the propaganda.


  • theliberadicator Sep 3, 2014

    "but it is logistically a huge challenge to do year round in high school. You have to do 4 of all class offerings. "

    Not good enough. Even at the High School level families are going to have to pay a price. It may not be a true year round set up, but the crisis is really at the HS level. Where do you think all the kids end up after they leave their reassigned/overcrowded Elementary and Middle Schools? At a really overcrowded High School. So what price is your family willing to pay? What change would you accept once your kids get to High School? Maybe yours will need to go at night. The second shift.

    "We need a school board that will take a stand and just make all schools year round. No ifs, ands, or buts."

    Never going to happen. Look at Susan Evans position on this now, she doesn't want her constituents to have to be the ones to be moved to a new schedule. Funny thing is, I'm pretty sure she doesn't have a problem with it for the other districts in the county. You should ask her.