Local News

Wake Leaders Withhold Funds for Mandatory Year-Round Schools

Posted January 8, 2007
Updated January 9, 2007

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— The Wake County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 Monday in favor of withholding $3.4 million to convert existing public schools to a mandatory year-round schedule, saying it needed more time to study the plan.

It also voted to withhold $3.7 million that would relocate mobile classrooms from schools that were slated for year-round conversion.

Commissioners Harold Webb, Betty Lou Ward and Lindy Brown voted against withholding the funding.

The funding is associated with a $970 million school construction bond that Wake County voters approved in November. The Wake County Public School System was asking for the advance in funds to hire contractors and get projects started.

Twenty-two schools -- 19 middle schools and three elementary schools -- were set to switch to a year-round calendar for the 2007-2008 school year.

The decision, however, does not affect students who were set to attend new schools on a year-round schedule.

Wake County Public School System leaders said that without the conversion of those schools, they will be at least 4,000 seats short for the start of next school year.

"This is going to set us back," school board member Rosa Gill said. "I don't know what action we'll take, but I'm sure we'll have a long discussion (Tuesday)."

School system officials have said year-round schools are necessary to help the system manage its booming student population because they accommodate about 25 percent more students. While three-quarters of students are in class, one quarter is always on break.

County Commissioners also increased the allocation of funds to build new schools that were part of the bond package from $282 million to $312 million. However, they did not allocate funds for many renovation projects that would not add capacity to schools.

Those still on the list include Bugg Elementary, Aversboro Elementary, East Wake High School and Cary High School.

But school officials said that space would not be available at the start of the 2007-2008 term.

Commissioner Paul Coble, who initiated the idea to withhold the $3.4 million, said he does not think that will be the case.

"What we're doing is adding capacity now and long range," Coble said. "They're going to have a real hard time making the argument that we held them back."

Hundreds of parents protested the conversion. A representative for one of the groups said Monday evening that the commissioners' decision was the most for which they could have asked.

"I think it was important for the parents to feel like somebody was finally listening to them," Coble said.

Still, with up to 8,000 thousand more students coming next year, Gill said they are not only running out of solutions, they are running out of time to make decisions.

"Well, there's no other solution," she said. "We'll have to find a way to come up with the funds."

Legally commissioners dictate how the school board spends bond money, but school board member Carol Parkers said it could dip into savings to fund some conversions.

Monday's decision comes the eve of when the school system is set to release its revised reassignment proposal, which is based on the 22 schools converting to a year-round schedule.

In the last three years, enrollment in the Wake County schools has grown by more than 16,000 students. This year, about 6,400 new students enrolled.

By 2020, the county is expected to grow to 1.1 million people, meaning there would be an estimated 180,000 children in Wake County schools.

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  • alexfuller1 Jan 10, 2007

    I would like to comment on the recent actions by the Commissioners. I find their actions shocking for 3 main reasons. Essentially they withheld funding for 1) conversion of 22 schools to year round, 2) leasing or relocating mobile or modular units to alleviate crowding at schools in 2007, and 3) renovation projects at a number of campuses.

    The first thing that is shocking is that all but 2 of these commissioners worked with the Board of Education for the past 2 years in crafting this plan and all but the 2 new commissioners voted to support the plan back last summer prior to putting it to a vote of the public in November (obviously the 2 new commissioners weren't in office to vote). Three of the commissioners that supported it prior to the public approval have now voted against portions of it. The prime reason for changing their votes is that parents are against mandatory year round. What were they thinking when the parents made the same complaints prior to the bond passing?

  • builder276 Jan 10, 2007

    anybody know when the next school board meeting is, I think we should all be there to tell them exactly how we feel, and I mean EVERYBODY SHOULD BE THERE AND OUTSIDE THE BUILDING

  • cgoodall Jan 9, 2007

    Does Paul Coble eat lunch at 10:40 in the morning? My 7 year old does. How about at 1:45 in the afternoon. My 5 year old does. I bet Paul Coble doesn't sit in the car pool line for an hour every day either! How about a CHOICE for those of us who WANT year-round and better conditions for our kids!

  • LizardLick Jan 9, 2007

    I think that Coble should resign. I was honestly looking forward to the MYR schedule. We paid the MILLIONS of DOLLARS to expand the schools with the Ridiculas SCHOOL BOND REF. And now they are saying NO. That they want to BUILD more schools instead of using the ones they have to the fullest extent. This should be criminal. And to the parents / teachers of the ones that want to sue if it does pass. You should be disappointed in your self.

  • feyerdncr Jan 9, 2007

    So now what? Now we're once again going to have to wait, anxiously wondering where exactly our children are going to be nenxt year. I don't think the year round idea is going to go away. I just wish everyone would make up their minds and get on with it. We're not going to have adequate time to apply for the tracks that we want, request an exeption for tracks that we don't, and hear a final decision before the children are going to need to start school. Yes, I am against mandatory year round, but at this point I'm just tired of being in limbo and just want to know where and when my kids need to report to school!

  • diwanicki Jan 9, 2007

    Jussmith, you bring up another great point. Thank you.

  • 3kids2kats Jan 9, 2007

    In the News & Observer, Carol Parker says she feels betrayed by the County Commissioners. Well, I felt betrayed by the School Board for forcing me, a single mom, to year round when I have middle and high schoolers that are on traditional calendars. I should not have to worry about how I'm going to pay for daycare when my 10 yr. old is tracked out or about all the other constant scheduling conflicts. Other readers are berating the flip-flopping of the Commissioners and not being able to stick with a decision, but it was a bad decision from the start! For Rosa Gill to say there is no other solution is narrowminded. Year Round by choice is great, having it forced on you is unforgivable.

  • jussmith Jan 9, 2007

    I wonder if anyone thought about the finacial planning that the school teachers have had to make while all the flip-flopping has been going on. Talk about a betrayal? They keep this up, and forget about not having enough schools...there aren't going to be any teachers that are going to want to deal with this insanity. What do you tell them to do? How do you answer them? Shrug your shoulders and hope they saved up enough to get by until the county and school board figure it out? Try telling that to their bill collectors.

  • Forgetaboutit Jan 9, 2007

    Society needs to use year round school. Corporations maximize the use of their assets. School system need to maximize the use of schools. Yes, parents and students cannot continue this mindset. The world has not been organized for me. I do not like it at all myself.

  • veronica2 Jan 9, 2007

    Hallelujah!!!! Finally some one cared about the families caught in the crossfire of mandatory year round! Our family would have been on two different schedules with no real family time.Our children bussed to schools miles away when they could walk to neighborhood schools. I know the school board could care less how much stress they put on families. So I am glad that the county commissioner finally showed some understanding for us. Why should families in one area of Wake pay for the school board’s bad planning. Every year you hear how Wake is growing you would think the school board would get ahead of the game and not try to solve the problem by penalizing a sub set of Wake County families.