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Year-Round Schools Debate Goes Before Appeals Court

Posted January 9, 2008

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— The fight to keep year-round schools voluntary returned to court Wednesday with attorneys for the Wake County school board and a parents group presenting arguments before the Court of Appeals.

Wake County Board of Education attorney Ann Majestic argued that nowhere does state law limit a school board's authority to assign students to year-round schools and nowhere does it require districts to make assignments voluntary.

Last May, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ordered the school board to get parental permission before assigning students to year-round schools.

"In this case, we have a decision that ignores clear statutory language and invents language that is not there," Majestic said. "There is no evidence in the statutes of a requirement of informed parental consent before a student can be assigned to a year-round school."

Attorney Robert Hunter, who represents the plaintiff, WakeCARES, argued parents are entitled to a uniform educational experience that is nine consecutive months.

"It's an equal-access right," he said.

Majestic pointed out that law only specifies dates when school boards can set school calendars and that a school year must be nine months in length. Year-round schools, she argued, operate on a nine-weeks-on, three-weeks-off schedule and are consistent. Traditional calendar schools actually run about 11 months, she said.

WakeCARES contends that forcing students to switch schedules would be unfair and would disrupt family life. Members have said they are hoping the three-member appeals-court panel will agree with Manning's decision to keep year-round participation voluntary.

“We have a school board that is unresponsive to parents' wishes and concerns,” group member Patricia Lee said.

WakeCARES members and supporters of year-round schools were at Wednesday's hearing, including the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children. It maintains the board will have "a much more difficult time integrating schools if their right to assign students is diminished."

"We know that we're not looking at the individual schools and how they benefit the individual parents," CCCAAC member Calla Wright said. "But we're re looking at the total system and how they benefit all children."

Wake school leaders say most of the district's 49 year-round schools are now under-enrolled because of Manning's ruling. Twenty-nine had 40 or more students opt out. Five of those schools had more than 100 students leave.

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

"Just for sheer capacity management, we do need to win this," school board member Eleanor Goettee said. "We are optimistic. We are hoping for a decision in a reasonable amount of time."

The school board said that if the appeals court rules in its favor, parents would have choices.

During her argument Wednesday, Majestic noted that before the lawsuit, four of the parents who sued applied for a traditional calendar school and were granted that request. The parents argued the choices were not close to their homes.

The appeals court's ruling could affect more than 130,000 students and their families. It could be months, however, before there is a decision.

77 Comments

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  • poohperson2000 Jan 11, 2008

    happymom

    How many years was there not a choice for YR around less you went to an alternative school. I am sure you could argue there are children out there that a traditional calendar does not work for as well.

    Others were forced to traditional for years, how is this any different than you being forced to YR?

  • happymom Jan 10, 2008

    And if you have a child with special needs who doesn't handle the stops and starts of YR very well?

    What if you have a middle school or high school student in a traditional school or on a different track?

    YR works well for some people, but it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The argument that "it works for me therefore it should work for you" doesn't hold water.

  • AWakeMom Jan 10, 2008

    JustMeHere,

    I too am a single parent - with my closest living relative 500 miles away. I have one daughter in middle school year round, and one in high school. I myself work all year - in a year round elementary school -- if I can make it work, anyone can. Most parents work full time, and do not get a three week vacation every nine weeks -- so what is the major complaint about year round schools? 180 days -- each child goes to school -- no matter how you dice it.

  • Space Mountain Jan 10, 2008

    "My children get a lot less exercise in the winter due to shorter daylight hours. In the summer we're outside and active all day. Children attending YRS will not have as much time to play outside during their breaks because they won't have as much daylight. Diabetes and obesity are already epidemic among our children."

    Wow. Really?

  • Space Mountain Jan 10, 2008

    Just make all elementary and middle schools year round, get kids to go to their closest school, get kids in the same house on the same track, and quit the whining. Is it really that hard to do?

  • Not_So_Dumb Jan 10, 2008

    teachnow,

    I wonder if the kids could just be sent in late and miss homeroom?

  • teachnow Jan 10, 2008

    First 10 days of school determine the head count if I am not mistaken. I teach HS and we have regular homeroom the first 10 days to determine population for number of teachers we have, so if you are going to boycott, do it within the first 10 days.

  • Jackieann Jan 10, 2008

    In my county (Wilson) children are not allowed to read books or do homework on the bus. The schools claim it is a safety issue. So much for productive time on the bus.

    How are teachers whose children must attend a school on a different track going to cope? What if "traditional calendar" teachers (especially HS teachers)have to send their elementary and middle school age children to YRS?

    My children get a lot less exercise in the winter due to shorter daylight hours. In the summer we're outside and active all day. Children attending YRS will not have as much time to play outside during their breaks because they won't have as much daylight. Diabetes and obesity are already epidemic among our children.

  • happymom Jan 9, 2008

    To the people who say, "vote these people out." I voted. Unfortunately, I could only vote for the one board member that seems to have some common sense- Ron Margiotta.

    I'm with teach4r. We need to move toward county-wide voting and get rid of the clowns who somehow think mandatory YR is a good idea.

    I'm not defacto opposed to YR as a choice, but it doesn't work for my family and I resent being forced into this system.

    For the person who wanted someone to explain why people came back to YR. That's a simple one. Private school is expensive, and shuttling your child to a distant traditional school isn't always feasible for families. In other words, these poor families were out of options.

    Go, Wake Cares!!

  • JustMeHere Jan 9, 2008

    Good luck to them ... my middle school child is in one of the schools that was forced to go year round last year. My oldest is in high school ... and in case the Wake County School board has forgotten, there are NO year-round high schools .. so both my kids on the same track isn't an option. Did I "volunteer" to send my youngest to year-round when given a choice ... sure ... my choices were that (which is close to the HS) or carting her all over the county. Not an option for a single parent. I'm so looking forward to a whopping 3 weeks of summer when they'll both be out and we can take a family vacation. Thanks Wake County!

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