Wake schools growing slower than expected

September 10, 2008 4:05:24 PM PDT
The Wake County school system is growing at a much slower pace than predicted.Leaders once projected 6,400 new students this year. Tenth day figures show the number is close to 4,000. They point to one main reason. "The economy, and we sort of expected the numbers would be lower this year," school board chairperson Rosa Gill said. About one-third of the school system's 156 schools are on the year-round calendar, but some are not filling up, and many have empty seats. School board members say they will discuss year-round schools at their meeting next week. Right now, new Wake County schools open on that calendar, and that will be up for debate. "We're gonna discuss the assumption of opening all new schools as year-round," Gill said. And for the first time, it sounds like there may be public discussion as to whether some schools on the year-round calendar shouldn't be. "We could go back and re-examine some of the schools that aren't experiencing the growth that we thought they would," board member Patti Head said. "Maybe there is an exit strategy." But board members say there are still overcrowded schools and that more schools need to be built. They say this time slower growth could lead to knee-jerk reactions. Board critics are taking a wait and see approach. "Given past history, I don't have a lot of confidence," Dawn Graff of Wake Cares said. "However, being someone who's optimistic, taking a hard look at the numbers, I don't see how they couldn't roll back some schools to a traditional calendar." Don't expect any decisions next week.