Board holds first public hearing on school calendars

February 9, 2010 8:06:39 PM PST
The Wake County school board held the first of five public hearings Tuesday night on possible changes to mandatory year-round school assignments.

The hearings come after nearly 40,000 online surveys on the issue were returned to the board late last month.

The current school board majority was elected on a pledge to end mandatory assignments, but about 94.5 percent of parents who responded to the survey said they are very satisfied or satisfied with the current calendar at their individual schools.

And 80 percent say they want to remain on that calendar whether it is year-round or traditional.

As to preference, about 49 percent prefer a traditional calendar with about 45 percent preferring year-round.

Click here to view the survey results

Tuesday night, nearly two dozen parents signed up to speak ahead of time.

"I appease you to use data and stuff to make the decision rather than just the small group of people that got you elected," resident Liz Parry said.

"Year-round or not, children need to be in their community cause right now my child is not in his community," parent Gayle Sabol said.

At the center of it all is 140,000 Wake County students trying to get an education while being pulled back and forth amid a battle over socio-economic diversity and growth.

The previous school board argued the answer to both issues would be solved by sending some students to year-round schools.

But the majority on the new school board wants to end mandatory assignments to year-round schools - offering parents a choice instead.

Accommodating the choice could put an end to the diversity policy and some parents don't like that.

"By moving to schools from diversity you're going to create pockets of poverty and return to segregation which is not the program that has worked for Wake County," Nathaniel Wood said.

Many parents continue to plead with the new board to slow down and make informed decisions.

"We've created that student assignment committee you heard people talking about nodes, that's going to take time," Wake School Board Member John Tedesco said.

There will be four more public hearings on calendar preference.

The rest of the meetings will be held at the same times at:

  • Southeast Raleigh HS - February 11
  • Heritage HS - February 18
  • Leesville Rd HS - February 23
  • Panther Creek HS - February 25

Also Tuesday, board members were talking new schools and construction.

The facilities committee of the school board voted to abandon a site off Forestville Road for a new high school. The issue will be discussed by the full board next week.

The main reasons for the change were extra costs for road improvements and rock removal. Plus the proximity of other new high schools nearby.

Instead, the school board will consider two possible sites in Rolesville which are already cleared. One has sewer in place and water nearby.

Initial estimates show switching sites could possibly cost an extra $15 million.

Facilities Committee Chairman Chris Malone argued there are long term savings too.

"You're going to find a lot of both to be honest with you. I think in the end it's going to better for the county. People are going to be happy that we've done it. They want to know that their elected officials are going to act on what they say, on the promises that they made," he said.

The Forestville Road high school site debate is leading to a discussion between school board members and county commissioners in front of builders and realtors.

The main topic: should commissioners be the ones to buy land and build schools instead of the school system which has no taxing authority.

Board member Kevin Hill says no.

"With that direct question, I would say no. Without any further discussion about parameters, I'm concerned about the design, location, those kinds of things. I think there would have to be some further discussions about that," he said.

School Board Chair Ron Margiotta says yes.

"Let's concentrate on education which is our name which is Board of Education not Board of Building, not Board of construction," he offered.

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