Year-Round Schools Debate Heads to State Appeals Court
Posted January 7, 2008 6:10 p.m. EST
Updated January 7, 2008 8:45 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — The debate over whether year-round schools in Wake County remain voluntary goes before the North Carolina Court of Appeals on Wednesday.
Last May, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning forced the Wake County Board of Education to change its plan to convert 22 elementary and middle schools to a mandatory year-round schedule. He ruled the district must get parental permission before assigning students to them.
School leaders say most year-round schools are under-enrolled because of the ruling, and if the trend continues and if the school board loses its appeal, it could jeopardize their plan for all new elementary and middle schools to go year-round.
After Manning's ruling, 29 year-round schools in Wake County had 40 or more students opt out. Five of those schools had more than 100 students leave.
Hampered by increasing enrollment numbers and their commitment to keeping schools diverse, the majority of Wake County school board members say they will provide choices, but need the authority to assign children to certain schools.
"Year-round schools give us the capacity that we need," school board chairwoman Rosa Gill said. "The statute gives us the right to assign students, and we do give parents options."
The Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children is asking its supporters to be at the Jan. 9 court hearing to show support for the school board. The board will have "a much more difficult time integrating schools if their right to assign students is diminished," the group said.
The original lawsuit to block the conversion was filed by the Wake County parents' group WakeCARES, which contends that forcing students to switch schedules would be unfair and would disrupt family life.
Members said Monday they are hoping the three-member appeals court panel will agree with Manning's decision to keep year-round voluntary.
"I have faith in the process, and I feel like Judge Manning made a good, strong ruling," group member Kathleen Brennan said.
"I would like to see this whole thing resolved and get our school system on track and moving forward," she added.