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Many Support Year-Round School Schedules Over Tax Increase

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WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — The Wake County parents who showed up to protest mandatory year-round schools on Tuesday were persuasive. The school board later altered its proposal; fewer year-round conversions, with a slightly higher tax hike.

When parents lined up to oppose that plan, fellow parent Lee Perry felt their pain.

"I feel for them because I was there a couple of years ago and I was just as mad, thinking it was so unfair," said Perry.

She fought Wake County Schools when her kids were assigned to a year-round school. But after trying it, she's now on the other side of the argument.

"Our children adapt so much easier than we do," said Perry. "It was all me. I did not want to do it."

Despite the protests, a majority of parents actually do support mandatory, year-round conversions to avoid a tax increase, according to a poll conducted for WRAL and

The News and Observer

. Still, the school board decided to convert fewer schools.

School board member Lori Millberg said a $625 million bond that doesn't raise taxes doesn't meet the crowding needs. Also, she said a smaller tax hike coupled with massive conversions still wasn't popular.

"We were under the impression that the lower the bond, the more likely it was to pass," said Millberg. "After looking at (the) poll, it showed it didn't make much difference, that last little bit above a billion or just below."

Because year-round schools fit more students with their rotating schedules, Perry figures this is a missed opportunity to find more space and convert more parents.

"The position they've taken right now is a step in the right direction, but they're not going to solve the problem," she said. "They're still going to be behind."

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African American Children supports more year-round schools, and said these conversions are a start.

Because 30,000 more students are expected in Wake County schools by 2010, supporters of a bigger bond say more new schools now saves construction costs later. But what would happen if that bond fails before voters?

School leaders say all elementary schools, and even middle schools, would likely have to go to mandatory year-round classes. Also, they said it is possible high schools would have to go to split schedules, meaning a morning session and an afternoon session.

Critics of the bond say school leaders are just using year-round talk as a scare tactic to get taxpayers to pass the bond.


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