Year-round Wake County students head back to school
Posted July 11, 2011 8:30 a.m. EDT
Updated September 12, 2011 6:59 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — The summer is not over, but more than 40,000 year-round Wake County public school students headed back to class Monday.
The school system faces deep budget cuts this year, and Superintendent Tony Tata has been busy preparing teachers for the reality of the cuts.
Tata said he hoped to speak with all teachers before all schools are back in session.
Wake County school officials say this year's state budget is $40 million less than last year. So far, the school system has laid off more than 200 clerical and administrative positions.
On Tuesday, the school board will vote on more cuts, including proposals to lay off custodial staff and to reduce teacher assistants' contracts from 10 months to 9¼ months, effectively cutting their pay by 7.5 percent.
While year-round schools started Monday, five elementary schools that were year-round will now be on a single-track for two years. These schools – Alston Ridge Elementary, Highcroft Elementary, Lake Myra Elementary, Rand Road Elementary and Timber Drive Elementary – start Aug. 1.
Tata said he recommended the change because those schools were under-enrolled. The new calendar for those schools will save nearly $1 million in two years.
Multi-track year-round schools have four groups of students on different schedules. Three are in school at a time, while one is out on break.
Students enrolled in traditional-calendar schools begin class on Aug. 25.
Renaissance schools see big changes
Some of the biggest changes this school year can be seen at the four lowest-performing schools in the county last year. All teachers at these so-called "Renaissance Schools" had to reapply for their jobs.
Three of these schools – Wilburn Elementary and Barwell Road Elementary – reopened on Monday.
"We have new leadership, new staff in there and there is an energy in there," Tata said.
At Wilburn Elementary in Raleigh, nearly 80 percent of the teachers are new, including Principal Mark Tracy.
"The parents and students have done a marvelous job adjusting to that change in just one day," Tracy said.
Some new employees got bonuses to sign on, and more bonuses will be available at schools that show improvement.
"This is a dream for a principal, to have the opportunity to hire your own staff, have the full support of the administration at the central level, to be infused with technology and (have) smaller class sizes," Tracy said.
The Renaissance Schools project is being funded using the federal Race to the Top grant.