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Wake School Board Members Say More Year-Round Schools Inevitable

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The majority of elementary and middle schools in the Wake County Public School System could end up on a year-round schedule in one of the scenarios board of education members discussed Tuesday.
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    On Wednesday, board members presented their


    to county commissioners because it is crunch time for figuring out the amount of the next bond.

    School board members said converting as many as 91 schools to year-round schedules could decrease the $5.6 billion projected cost to build and renovate schools over the next 10 years by about $1.3 billion.

    About 72,000 more students are expected to crowd school hallways over the next 10 years. Converting many existing elementary and middle schools to a year-round schedule would help them deal with that growth.

    "The reality is in 2007, the only way to get seats is through conversions," said outgoing school board member Bill Fletcher.

    Year-round schools, which have been a small part of the Wake County School System since the early 1990s, hold more students because some students are on break while others are in class.

    While board members may not take the drastic step of converting 91 schools, change is inevitable, Fletcher said.

    "It may be -- the easiest to digest is a dramatic expansion in the summer of 2007," he said.

    County commission Chairman Tony Gurley thinks the $5.6 billion price tag to build new schools and the threat of tax hikes will cause the public to support year-round conversions.

    "I would think that year-round would be the standard in the near future," Gurley said.

    For every five schools converted to a year-round calendar, school officials said they can save the equivalent of one school from being built.

    The standard, for now, is still up for discussion; board members can choose an all-or-nothing scenario or something in between.

    "At some level, we're going to need more year-round schools," said board Chairwoman Patti Head. "How many is still up for grabs."

    A decision is needed by the end of January so board members can decide how much to ask for in the next construction program, which goes before voters in a referendum in November.

    Parent groups do not want year-round schedules forced on families. One argument they give is that there are no year-round high schools. School system officals, however, say converting high schools to a year-round schedule are just too expensive.


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