Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Education voted Tuesday in favor of a revised resolution that aims to end mandatory year-round school assignments, which some say will give parents more options when it comes to where their children can attend school.
Board member Debra Goldman split with other newly elected members for the first time Tuesday to support the revised resolution, which states that beginning with the 2010-2011 school year, "every effort will be made to eliminate mandatory year-round assignments.”
The original resolution, which chairman Ron Margiotta, and members Deborah Prickett, Chris Malone, John Tedesco and Goldman voted in favor of on Jan. 5, while members Carolyn Morrison, Keith Sutton, Kevin Hill and Anne McLaurin voted against, said "there will be no mandatory year-round assignments."
The word change came in response to concerns that overcrowding could lead to parental choice being altered for some students.
“Our staff believes that if we don’t make these changes we are going to wind up with some very overcrowded schools resulting from approving calendar choice,” Chuck Dulaney, Wake County Public School System assistant superintendent for growth and planning, said.
Those against ending mandatory year-round schools, which divides students into four groups and has them rotate on a schedule of nine weeks of class and a three-week break, asked the board to take more time to study the issue.
"Wait to do research so that the best decision can be made,” parent Lettice Rhodes told the board Tuesday.
Others supported making the change now.
"You are doing a good job by doing away from year-round schools,” parent Louise Lee said.
Two years ago, the district converted 22 elementary and middle schools to year-round schedules, and officials ordered all new schools to operate on that calendar. Administrators defended the controversial moves by saying it would help the district keep up with enrollment growth and save money on school construction since year-round schools can accommodate more students than traditional-calendar schools.
Tuesday's resolution calls for parents to receive a flier, which will be sent home with students the week of Feb. 1, informing them of their calendar options.
An online application to apply for a traditional calendar school will go live online Feb. 8.
The board also discussed Tuesday how to go about a survey to gauge parents’ attitudes concerning year-round schools. Parents have until Jan. 25 to respond to the survey, which was sent out last week.
The board has also community meetings scheduled from 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. where parents can voice their concerns.
- Tuesday, Feb. 9 at Holly Springs High School, 5329 Cass Holt Road, Holly Springs
- Thursday, Feb. 18 at Heritage High School, 1150 Forestville Road, Wake Forest
- Tuesday, Feb. 23 at Leesville Road High School, 8409 Leesville Road, Raleigh
- Thursday, Feb. 25 at Panther Creek High School, 6770 McCrimmon Parkway, Cary
The survey and meetings, board members have said, will help them make better decisions regarding year-round schools in the future. Recommendations on whether to change schools from traditional calendar to year-round schedules, or vice versa, are likely in early March after the community meetings.
According to school administrators, there are 33,157 students in 42 year-round elementary schools. In nine year-round middle schools, there are 10,925 students. The schools are currently utilizing 85 percent of elementary seats and 91 percent of middle school seats.
It’s unclear, still, how ending mandatory year-round school assignments will affect the school makeup. But the board’s decision has caused many to be concerned about other potential changes.
The board’s new majority has indicated it is also in favor of ending the school system’s decade-old diversity policy, which buses students across school districts to help achieve socio-economic diversity.
The board wants to implement neighborhood schools – another choice, they have said, for parents.
Many groups oppose the move, including the state chapter of the NAACP, which fears the move would re-segregate schools and hurt children’s opportunity for a high-quality education.