Wake County Schools

Slowed growth has Wendell school slated for calendar change

Lake Myra Elementary School, built to accommodate a population boom, is under-enrolled and may convert from a year-round to a traditional calendar.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Lake Myra Elementary School in Wendell was opened as a year-round school, accommodating "tracks" of students who alternate nine weeks in class with three-week breaks. The year-round calendar maximizes space at crowded schools across Wake County.

But when the recent recession put a dent in development plans for Wendell, the student body didn't grow the way the Wake County Public School System officials anticipated.

Lake Myra has enough space to accommodate more than 760 students, but Principal Jim Argent said enrollment for the 2011-12 school year will likely be around 570.

Lake Myra was built to accommodate an projected population boom from Wendell Falls, a subdivision that was expected to triple the size of the eastern Wake County town. The property went into foreclosure, however, and no homes were ever built.

"When none of those houses were built, we lost the major portion of our base," Argent said Friday.

Those facts have Lake Myra facing a calendar change at the suggestion of Superintendent Tony Tata. He would like to see 14 year-round schools currently operating at less than capacity convert to a single-track calendar, a move he said would save the district $50,000 per school.

Tata suggested Tuesday that the district convert Alston Ridge, Ballentine, Banks Road, East Garner, Harris Creek, Highcroft, Lake Myra, Rand Road, River Bend, Timber Drive, Wakefield and West Lake elementary schools and East Cary and Holly Grove middle schools to a single calendar.

He said he recognizes the change would be disruptive for families who have adjusted their family schedule to the schedules of the various tracks.

"I know it's a controversial issue, and I know that it is a difficult issue because we are talking about using facilities at capacity and we are also talking about impacting families," Tata said.

Argent agreed, saying, "We would have to be very cognizant and very respectful of families and their situations."

Tata notes, however, that the idea is worth investigating, given the school district's tight budget. The district is planning for a 5 percent cut in state funding for the coming year and no additional money from the county, even though overall enrollment is expected to increase.

"I want to have all of the information available to maybe absorb more than the 5 percent cut and still preserve the priorities of the budget, protecting teachers and classrooms," he said.

The school board is expected to consider the issue next month. If approved, principals of the affected schools would have to decide how best to adjust their schedules.


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