Local News

Wake School Board To Hold Community Meetings On Year-Round Schools

Posted September 19, 2005 6:31 a.m. EDT

— The Wake County Public School System's Board of Education hopes a series of community meetings starting Monday night will help it get the feedback it needs to plan for the future of the school system.

Every year, thousands of Wake County students are reassigned to different schools to balance the record-setting growth in Wake County. This year, some of the school system's biggest challenges lie ahead as the school system considers future plans to switch traditional calendar schools to a year-round schedule.

School officials say year-round schools accommodate about 25 percent more students because some students are in class while others are on break.

The school board decided in August to hold off on a plan to convert some existing schools to a year-round schedule in 2006 by opening three new elementary schools on that schedule instead.

Members hoped the idea would give them enough time to get feedback from the public before implementing a long-term plan beginning in 2007.

"It gives us a chance to talk to our professionals our teachers and staff members," said Patti Head, the Wake County school board's chairwoman. "We want to bring everybody onto the same page as we go forward with this. There are lots of issues, as you know."

While officials say switching some existing schools to a year-round schedule would help the crowding situation, forcing families into it has not been a popular option.

"People do not want to be forced into year-round schools," said Cynthia Matson, who heads up the parent group Assignment By Choice.

Matson does not want year-round schedules forced on people, especially since there are currently 2,300 families currently on a waitlist to get into existing year-round schools.

"They have to look at adding a year-round component to traditional schools," Matson said. "They would have some traditional tracks and some year-round tracks. That's very doable. They need to look at half-day kindergarten. There are a lot of options."

That kind of feedback is why school board members say they are waiting to convert schools. They want to develop a long-term plan through the series of community meetings, which begin Monday.

The first one will take place 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at Wake Forest-Rolesville High School; the next will be 7 p.m. at Green Hope High School on Sept. 21; and then at Knightdale High School on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. (View the

entire schedule


Given that it will take one school year to receive all the feedback, the question now becomes whether the school system can afford to wait. The enrollment numbers are higher than both the state and the county projected.

In the last three years, enrollment in the Wake County schools has grown by more than 16,000 students. This year, about 6,400 students were enrolled. By 2020, the county is expected to grow to 1.1 million people, meaning there would be an estimated 180,000 children in Wake County schools.

Official enrollment numbers for this school year are expected to be released Thursday. Those numbers will help shape the future of the community discussions.

Politics also will play a part as school board elections are next month and a school bond proposal is set for next November.

Currently, about 14,600 students attend 15 year-round schools in Wake County -- 11 elementary schools and four middle schools. While no high schools are on a year-round schedule, Southeast Raleigh High School does operate on modified year-round schedule.

Most families choose the schedule; however, some families are assigned a permanent base school on the year-round schedule.