Local News

School board weighs costs of year-round, traditional schools

Posted April 29, 2008 3:08 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2008 8:33 p.m. EDT

— School board members are trying to put a dollar figure on the overcrowded school situation in Wake County.

The school board’s Facilities Committee and administrators on Tuesday discussed a building plan that could be used in planning for a bond referendum next year.

The plan will help board members compare the cost of building traditional-calendar schools with those that would operate on a year-round schedule. The plan is also looking at the cost to reduce the number of students in mobile classrooms.

The Wake County Public School System's estimated 130,000 students could grow by 10,000 next year. In response to growth, the district converted 22 schools to year-round schools.

Last year, many year-round schools were below capacity because hundreds of parents opted to stay in traditional-calendar schools.

Some board members said it is time to revisit whether new schools should open as year-round.

School Board member Ron Margiotta believes it's time to rethink year-round schools before asking voters for more money.

“The bond referendum will never be approved unless we change the mindset and change the way it’s proposed to the public,” Margiotta said.

Several school board members said the request doesn't mean the board is backing off the year-round approach. The board wants to know all options before making long-term building decisions, they said.

One estimate is that it could take as much as $350 million to meet the district's goal of reducing the number of students in mobile classrooms.

School administrators have said year-round schools are necessary to help the system manage its booming student population. They accommodate about 25 percent more students than a traditional school because one-quarter of the student body is always on break.

In February, Wake County officials said they wanted to take another look at the school district's plan to operate all new elementary and middle schools on year-round schedules and to convert some existing schools from a traditional calendar to year-round.

The subject of year-round schools in Wake County has been in contention, with a lawsuit filed to keep year-round schools voluntary.