Wake board likely to halt mandatory year-round schools

Posted December 14, 2009 4:50 p.m. EST
Updated January 5, 2010 11:50 p.m. EST

— Adding to changes the new majority on the Wake County Board of Education has already made, the board is likely to vote Tuesday to block the opening of any new year-round schools until officials can determine whether more are needed.

"It is the intent of the board that current year-round schools will be transitioned to either a voluntary basis or to traditional calendar by the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year," a resolution to be presented for a board vote reads.

If approved the resolution directs school district staff "to cease opening schools on a non-voluntary year-round calendar and stop work on any conversion of remaining schools to mandatory year-round pending the outcome of approved surveys."

"No plans will continue to open the new schools next school opening as year round calendars until the results of the survey," board Chairman Ron Margiotta said Monday.

The school board wants to survey parents whose children attend year-round schools to gauge the popularity of the calendar, which divides students into four groups and has them rotate on a schedule of nine weeks of class and a three-week break, Margiotta 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.

Margiotta said he and four board members elected this fall want to end mandatory assignments to year-round schools and make the calendar an option for families who want it.

The five-member majority has said it wants to be responsive to parents, and it has already scrapped early releases on Wednesdays and halted funding for a new high school northeast of Raleigh, both of which had generated extensive opposition in recent months.

Supporters of year-round schools argue that mandatory assignments are necessary to plan for future growth.

"There may be some tweaking that needs to be done to that," board member Keith Sutton said. "Does every school need to be opened as year-round? I don't know."