Wake parents concerned about proposed schedule changes

Heritage Elementary School would see its start time change from 7:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and its release time move from 2:25 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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WAKE FOREST, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Education will consider an item on Tuesday that would change the start time for most of the district's elementary schools, beginning with the new school year.
The proposed bell schedules recommend that most of the district’s 104 elementary schools run 25 minutes later, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., allowing buses to accommodate about 2,000 additional students and bus riders at four new schools.

But some schools, like Heritage Elementary in Wake Forest, would start much later.

Heritage would see its start time change from 7:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and its release time move from 2:25 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The youngest of Katie Williams' three sons is scheduled to start kindergarten at Heritage next year. She said the proposed schedule changes have her concerned.

"There is no way he is going to make it to 4 p.m. at school," Williams said.

Williams started an online petition to protest the proposal.

"I have received over 180 names on a petition who are against this change just this morning," she said Monday.

The later start times also have some parents concerned they will have to find childcare for their children before- and after-school.

School officials are working on an alternative plan that would allow Heritage Elementary to start at an earlier time, but would require elementary students to ride on the same bus with the middle school students.

The proposed bell schedules are an effort  to save money, Wake County Public School System spokesman Michael Evans said.

The school system runs buses at different times to allow them to run up to three routes in both mornings and afternoons. Currently, schools are scheduled to open between 7:25 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.

The three-tier system saves the school system more than $2.5 million and eliminates the need for 24 more buses and drivers, Evans said.

“We think it is going to be more convenient because we are going to be able to absorb that growth and be more effective and efficient for the taxpayers,” he said.

The school system's $1.2 billion operating budget for 2010-11 cuts about $20 million from the central services budget, which includes transportation funding.

Among other cuts are $7 million in facilities services, $2.5 million in technology services and $1.1 million in instructional services.

The busing schedule needs to be approved by April 1, Evans said, but the board could decide on Tuesday to waive its policy, allowing more time for them to review the schedule.

On Tuesday, the board is also expected to take a final vote on a student assignment resolution that would have students attend schools that are closer to their homes.

The plan in place now buses students across the school district to help achieve socio-economic diversity, where no school has more than 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

With a large attendance expected at Tuesday's meeting, Wake County Public Schools announced that tickets will be issued to citizens wishing to attend. A ticket will guarantee a seat in the boardroom available to the public.

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