Local News

Wake school board changes year-round policy

Posted May 5, 2009 2:24 p.m. EDT
Updated May 5, 2009 9:40 p.m. EDT

— The Wake County Board of Education voted Tuesday to return to a 2007 policy of not requiring parental consent when it comes to assigning students to year-round schools.

The decision means the district will be able to compel students to attend year-round schools beginning with the 2009-2010 school year.

Board members insisted the plan would still allow families to opt out because of conflicting schedules. Ron Margiotta was the only board member to vote against the plan.

For the past two years, the school system has asked parents for permission following a Superior Court ruling requiring it to do so.

The state Supreme Court on Friday sided with a Court of Appeals ruling that school leaders have the authority to make assignments.

School board members said their decision Monday will directly affect about 1,200 students whose parents haven't given permission in the past.

The policy is likely to draw criticism from parents who see it as the elimination of choice.

Margiotta said it could become an election issue in October when four board seats will be decided by voters.

"It's one of the symptoms of what's wrong with the school system – an unwillingness to listen to parents," Margiotta said. "Compromises could have been made prior to the court suit."

School district staff said it will help principals plan for how many teachers and staff they need for students.

Parents will have the opportunity to apply for a transfer for the upcoming school year later this month.

Typically, 95 percent of those who follow process and apply for traditional-calendar schools are assigned there, school board members said.

Wake County's public school system is the largest in the state and one of the fastest-growing in the country.

It grew more than 30 percent since 2000 to more than 128,000 students enrolled during the 2006-2007 school year, when the school board assigned 20,717 students to year-round schools.

Fewer than 3,000 of those students had attended year-round schools before.

Because year-round schools rotate four "tracks" of students through a schedule of nine weeks of classes and three-week vacations, the schools can accommodate more students than traditional schools. One track is always on break.

The school board said though it opened 33 new schools since July 2000 and planned to build 31 more in the next five years, it needed a way to cope with another 65,000 students expected by 2015.

The Wake County board's 2007 decision expanded its student assignment plan, in which every year-round school had a portion of students involuntarily assigned since 2003.