Local News

Wake school board will continue year-round battle

Posted May 27, 2008 7:56 a.m. EDT
Updated May 27, 2008 6:53 p.m. EDT

— After nearly two hours in a closed meeting with its attorney, the Wake County Board of Education decided Tuesday to move forward with its fight for mandatory year-round schools.

The board considered a state Supreme Court order that blocks it from implementing a Court of Appeals ruling that states the schools could assign children without asking for parental consent.

The state Supreme Court has not decided whether it will review the case. Its order is in effect at least until it makes that decision.

Ann Majestic, the school board's attorney, said Tuesday she plans to file a response by early next week to a motion by local parents group WakeCARES asking the high court hear the case.

WakeCARES says it hopes the Supreme Court hears the case since two lower courts have issued different rulings. If not, it plans to take its concerns to state lawmakers.

But Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, said the Legislature likely won't get involved until the court fight is over.

"I think what we need to do first is see where the courts come out on it," Ross said. "The school calendar law, in general, is pretty controversial. And so any change that people might want in it will definitely generate a lot of different opinions."

Meanwhile, the school district will continue using consent forms for year-round assignments until the case is resolved, Majestic said.

Parents still have the opportunity to opt out of year-round schools by June 1. Students registering after June 1 or not returning a consent letter by that date would be assigned to a year-round school under the board's current plan.

The back-and-forth court battles have caused a ripple effect. Parents have more questions about their children’s education, and educators are not sure how many teachers they will need or where to put them.

WakeCARES sued the school system last year over its plans to convert 22 elementary and middle schools from traditional schedules to year-round calendars.

They contend the district does not have the authority to mandate attendance at year-round schools and said the new schedule would disrupt the lives of hundreds of families.

District administrators maintain they needed to operate more schools on year-round calendars to accommodate growing enrollments.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning sided with the parents last May, saying the district needed the consent of parents before assigning any student to a year-round school.

The district proceeded to convert the schools, but hundreds of families opted out of going to them and were assigned to traditional schools for the 2007-2008 year, leaving some schools under-enrolled and others extremely overcrowded.

Three weeks ago in a unanimous vote, the appeals court overturned Manning's ruling, saying state law doesn't preclude a school district from assigning students to year-round schools.

Despite that ruling, the school board voted to leave the 2008-2009 student assignment plan in place.