Local News

Wake officials debate opening schools as year-round or not

Posted September 5, 2007 7:04 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2008 7:39 p.m. EDT

— Wake County Schools will get an answer about year-round schools sooner rather than later.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals granted them an expedited hearing in the fight over converting to mandatory year-round. A Wake County judge ruled they can't do it.

Still, there's no guarantee on when the case will be heard. And some board members said they can't wait for another court ruling.

Year-round schools fit more kids because of the rotating schedules, so more year-round means fewer schools to build, officials said. By 2025, the school system says it needs 65 more elementary and middle schools. That's if they're year-round.

With the court fight in limbo, some school board members said they need to act now.

When a judge required year round schools to be voluntary, many year-round schools became under-enrolled and traditional schools became crowded.

“It’s going to be chaos if we continue on the same plan,” said Wake School Board Member Ron Margiotta.

If the schools don't fill up, Margiotta said he wants to scrap the plan that calls for opening all new middle and elementary schools as year-round. A renovated manufacturing plant is one of three elementary schools slated to go year-round next year.

So, how quickly does the school system need to work on this?

“Now, now,” Margiotta said. “Staff needs time to work on assignments.”

School Board Chair Rosa Gill said not so fast.

“We have to keep building new schools and opening them up as year-round with large capacities,” she said.

Gill said she wants the school board to stay the course while they appeal the judge’s decision. If they lose the appeal, Gill said it’s back to the drawing board. And that affects planning for the next school bond campaign, which is coming up sooner than later.

“I think I’d probably bet on the fact that more than likely there will be one next year,” said Consultant Ballard Everett.

Everett worked as a consultant on previous bond campaigns and said he believes the next one could be just as big as last year's $970 million request, which passed.

“They’ve gotta make sure the plans they put together they can sell to the people of Wake County, and that it will be something the people feel comfortable voting yes for,” Everett said.

The year-round plan might come up at Thursday’s school board work session. The board will talk about re-assignment, transportation issues and the recent audit report on how the school system carries out its curriculum.