Local News

Opening Bell Is a Week Away for Wake Year-Round Schools

Posted July 3, 2007 12:04 a.m. EDT

— When classes start at 46 year-round schools next Monday morning, half will be under-enrolled.

Many of the schools were designed to ease overcrowding — in fact, 22 schools were converted to year-round this year — but the year-round solution hasn't become a solution just yet, and some officials worry that under-enrollment is going to cause problems down the road.

Lori Scott's son, Joshua, will start first grade at Knightdale Elementary on Monday, and she thinks he's ready. In fact, Joshua wouldn't mind starting tomorrow.

Scott was one of dozens of parents who made their way through parent-teacher night at Knightdale Elementary on Monday night.
The school is one of the 22 schools that are switching from a traditional calendar to year-round.

Year-round schools operate on four rotating calendars or "tracks." One of the four is always on a break. The rotation of students allows a school building to serve about 33 percent more students than a traditional calendar school.

Right now, Knightdale Elementary has 580 students compared with last year's 691.

"I've had to move teacher tracks and move students daily at times because we don't have the numbers," says Michael Williams, the principal at Knightdale Elementary.

Williams says his current enrollment is creating quite a juggling act.

The enrollment situation is due in part to Superior Court Judge Howard Manning's ruling in April that attendance at year-round schools must be voluntary. The Wake School Board sent consent forms home with students at all of the school system's year-round schools, both new and existing ones.

As a result, 2,626 students opted to leave year-round classrooms for traditional ones. The school system has been trying to balance the numbers since May.

At Knightdale Elementary, 78 students opted out. Across town, Leesville Elementary lost 31.

If the numbers stay down, some schools could be forced to eliminate positions.

"We certainly have been conservative in our hiring so as not to put ourselves in that situation," says Lisa Brown, the assistant principal at Leesville Elementary.

The state takes official enrollment numbers on the 10th day of school. For year-round, that will happen around the second week of August because the fourth track doesn't start until the end of July.

The official numbers determine teacher positions and funding.

Year-round schools are confident they'll keep adding students until then, but they're concerned that there will be a surge in enrollment in late August that they will have to handle without having received credit for it.

"I'm enrolling three to seven students a day at this point," Williams said. Last year, he added 100 students over the course of the school year.

Leesville's Lisa Brown says it's a waiting game.

"For the numbers fluctuating they way they are now, we're properly staffed and we're ready to go. We're sort of watching the numbers every day," Brown said.

The unknown could work two ways. Year-round schools could have too many teachers or too few.

Principals said they believe incoming students will get their schools to capacity by the end of this year or next.

After the court ruling, more crowding shifted to traditional schools. For example, Brooks Elementary went from 522 students to 563. It's capacity is 512 students.