Local News

Group Sues Wake to Block Year-Round School Conversions

Posted March 13, 2007 7:32 p.m. EDT
Updated March 14, 2007 1:22 a.m. EDT

— A parents group on Tuesday filed a class-action lawsuit against the Wake County Board of Education seeking an injunction to stop the conversion of to a mandatory year-round schedule.

Leaders with the group, WakeCARES, want a judge to hear the complaint within the next 10 days, because the plan is expected to take effect when the 2007-2008 school year begins.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, leaders said they felt they had no choice but to sue the board, saying it did not listen to their concerns about the conversion plan. WakeCARES announced their decision with the support of three wake county mayors and dozens of concerned parents.

“This is about choice, and parents deserve to have choice in their children's education—and this is at the very heart of that,” Apex Mayor keith Weatherly said.

For months, groups have argued, for example, that such a schedule would complicate lives of families who have children on different school calendars and potentially split families.

“At this point, I think a lot of parents are just tired of beating their heads against the wall and this is our court of last option, literally,” parent Kevin Nesbitt said.

School system leaders have said that unless they convert the 22 schools, they will be at least 4,000 seats short for the start of the school year.

Year-round schools are necessary, they argue, to help the system manage its booming student population, because they accommodate about 25 percent more students. While three-quarters of students are in class, one quarter is always on break.

Tuesday's lawsuit is the latest move in the battle over mandatory year-round schools.

In January, days before the school board was to approve a massive reassignment plan -- which is based on the 22 school conversions, the Wake County Board of Commissioners voted to withhold $3.4 million in funding to transition the schools.

The school system, however, moved forward with the reassignment plan, reallocated funding from its budget.

In the last three years, enrollment in the Wake County schools has grown by more than 16,000 students. This year, about 6,400 new students 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.