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School, County Leaders Nearly United On School Bond Issue

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County Board of Education members and county commissioners have presented a nearly united front when it comes to passing the $970 million school construction bond package.
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    School, County Leaders Nearly United On School Bond Issue

    At support rallies, members of both boards stand side by side.

    "We've worked really well together, but it took a lot of work," said Wake School Board member Carol Parker. "There were a lot of tense moments and a lot of meetings," she added.

    That's in spite of the fact that members are, politically, all over the map.

    "It's absolutely a bipartisan effort," said Wake County Commission Chairman Tony Gurley.

    But despite the months of compromise, each board has one very vocal opponent of the bond.

    Wake school board member Ron Margiotta says it all comes down to mandatory year-round school assignments. He opposes the current plant to convert 22 schools to year-round schedules, and he wants to avoid making students attend them. Margiotta wants the bond to fail so the two boards can go back to the public with a different bond package.

    "The county could front some money to keep things moving along, so I don't think a day would be missed if the bond fails," Margiotta said.

    Wake County Commissioner Phil Jeffreys also opposes the bond, but for a very different reason.

    "If we went K through 12 year-round, which is not much different than what they're working toward now, we would not have to have a bond for three or four years," Jeffreys said.

    Jeffreys wants all schools to be converted to year-round schedules so the school system can catch up on construction.

    Wake County Public School System officials say year-round schools accommodate 25 to 33 percent more students in one building because of the four rotating calendars. All four calendars are never in school at the same time. Students go to school the same number of days as a traditional calendar school, but there are more frequent breaks throughout the year.

    Gurley believes the bond will pass. He says there is no other plan if it fails.

    "If the bond failed, we'd have to address the reasons for that bond failing," he said.

    Because the opposition centers on one group that does not want a tax increase and another group that does not want mandatory year-round schools, finding an alternative to please both groups could prove difficult.

    Margiotta thinks they could reach a compromise, even if it included a tax increase.

    "We're going to have to join forces with the anti-tax group, he said. "They and the Stop Mandatory Year-Round (group) are going to have to make some concessions."

    If the bond fails, supporters say more mandatory year-round schooling is inevitable to find space. Even with more money right now, they say they do not have enough time to build schools to avoid the year-round changes for next school year.

    There will be at least one new county commissioner. Commissioner Herb Council is not seeking re-election. Three other commissioners have challenges for their seats, so voters will be electing four members of the board on Tuesday.


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