Soaring enrollments mean Wake County Schools will be short about 5,000 seats next year, according to district projections. Officials said moving some schools to year-round schedules would free up enough space for new students without having to wait for schools to be built.
The district on Tuesday also released its official enrollment figures after seven days of class, showing 126,922 students in school. That is 7,425 more students than at the same time a year ago.
Students at year-round schools attend classes for the same number of days as those at traditional schools, but they have short breaks spread throughout the year rather than a long summer vacation. Because year-round schools split students among four schedules, with three groups in class and one on break at all times, the schools can accommodate about 25 percent more students than traditional schools.
For several weeks, school board members and district officials have been tweaking the list of schools to be converted. The original list of 30 elementary schools was first cut to 23 and then to 19, which would create about 3,000 classroom seats.
The elementary schools to be converted are:
- Ballentine Elementary
- Baucom Elementary
- Brassfield Elementary
- Green Hope Elementary
- Harris Creek Elementary
- Highcroft Elementary
- Hodge Road Elementary
- Holly Springs Elementary
- Knightdale Elementary
- Leesville Elementary
- Lockhart Elementary
- Middle Creek Elementary
- Olive Chapel Elementary
- Pleasant Union Elementary
- Rand Road Elementary
- Salem Elementary
- Vance Elementary
- Wakefield Elementary
- Willow Springs Elementary
Members are also talking about putting middle schools on the year-round calendar. They've already agreed to get public comment on Wakefield, East Wake and Salem Middle Schools. They are also interested in converting East or North Garner and Leesville Middle Schools as well. A public meeting on the proposal is scheduled for September 14 at 7 p.m.
At a recent public hearing and before Tuesday's vote. many parents expressed outrage and frustration about the decision.
"Families and children are the ones being taxed. We're the ones who are bearing the brunt of your decision," parent Margaret Strubel said.
"Opposition to forcing year-round schools will not cease," parent Louise Lee said. "You're making a decision that will force families to change their way of life. ... It's wrong to ask them to compromise a lifestyle that is not only preferable, it's necessary."
Several parents said they would vote against the $970 million school construction bond issue on the November ballot because of the year-round plan. District officials said passage of the bond, which is designed to finance construction of dozens of schools over the next decade, is critical to keeping up with enrollment growth.
"Why would anyone in these circumstances support a bond that punishes them?" parent Dave Duncan said. "This bond will be voted down."
Board member Ron Margiotta, who voted against the year-round plan, called the bond proposal "dead on arrival," saying parents and teachers won't support building new schools when their children have been forced into a schedule the family doesn't want.
"This is without a doubt the most anti-choice program we could adopt," Margiotta said.
But board member Carol Parker criticized parents for coming out only to work against the bond and the year-round plan. They should have been equally vocal last spring to build momentum for a larger bond, which might have made so many year-round conversions unnecessary, she said.
"I wish we had such energy when we were trying to get out the message that growth doesn't pay for itself," Parker said. "Growth is overwhelming us."
Other board members said the continued crush of enrollment growth left them no choice but to convert some schools to year-round schedules to make room for new students.
"This is the best plan we have for what we face in the next decade," board member Susan Parry said.