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Wake Elementary Schools Would Go Year-Round Under Latest Bond Plan

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Nearly all Wake County elementary schools would go to a year-round schedule under a trimmed bond plan presented to the Wake County Board of Education Thursday morning.
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    new, nearly $994 million bond proposal

    is well under previous plans that ranged from $1.37 billion to $1.97 billion, but includes year-round schedules for nearly all elementary schools and modified schedules for all other schools. School officials had been trying to trim the cost of the plans, even considering consolidation of school stadiums to do so.

    The school board also took an informal vote and decided to put high school football stadiums back into the bond proposal. School leaders originally nixed a plan to build two new stadiums in an effort to save money. The informal vote is not official, but if approved, would add to the bond package.

    The latest proposal will be reviewed by the school board before it votes on May 16. Any school board plan would then go to the Wake County Board of Commissioners, which would have to approve it for it to appear before voters on the November ballot.

    The year-round changes, which could take place as early next year, would affect 59 elementary schools. The shift to year-round schedules would free up 6,000 seats, eliminating the need for six new elementary schools.

    The plan changes the calendars for magnet elementary schools, most middle schools and all high schools to a shorter summer break of 7 weeks -- down from 10 weeks. Those schools would also have breaks that roughly match elementary school calendars.

    The plan for more year-round schools comes after a Raleigh Chamber of Commerce poll last month showed voters believed the school construction bonds are too high. Residents would see tax increases and many are not convinced the increases are worth the cost.

    Only about 40 percent of those surveyed supported the bonds; 66 percent of voters want more year-round schools in order to accommodate more students. Only 23 percent did not want them.

    Under the proposal made Thursday, Wake County would provide 16 new schools: nine year-round elementary, three year-round middle schools and two traditional-schedule high schools. The schools would become available between July 2008 and July 2010.

    Also under the plan, one new elementary school would open in 2011 and one new middle school in 2011. Not all of the new construction would be funded by the bond proposal.

    Reaction Mixed For Wake County Parents

    Parents have mixed reactions to the proposal: some say it benefits learning and is the best way to ease overcrowding; others say it will be difficult, especially for working parents who will need to find child care for the more-frequent breaks.

    "Day cares are not set up for year-round schools, most of them are not set up for that. You have issues trying to find places to put your children if you are working," said preschool teacher Tina Laraj.

    Although many day-care centers cover teacher workdays and school vacations, such as spring break, day-care operators say they are concerned they will be unable to meet the child-care demands of year-round breaks.

    "I just wonder how parents will deal with it and how we will figure out what teachers we have to pull out of a classroom in order to figure out in order to man the after-school care room. I just don't see us being able to do it," said Anne Caspar, owner of Children's Discovery Place in Raleigh.

    Parents with multiple children are concerned about having children at different schools on different schedules. But other parents who have more flexibility support the year-round schedule, saying it makes financial and academic sense.

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