Two families' school hopes

Staff WriterMay 26, 2007 


  • Listen as Julea Danielson describes why a year-round school schedule works for her family.


    Hear Shannon Blackmon of Raleigh, a mother of four, talk about why she opposes mandatory year-round school.
  • Since Superior Court Judge Howard Manning issued his ruling this month that the school district couldn't force students to attend year-round schools, the Wake County school district has been working to get consent forms back from the parents of more than 30,000 students. Parents had to decide whether to send their children to a traditional-calendar school or opt to stay at year-round school.

    On Thursday, the district said that they have received about 95 percent of the forms back, but said they will continue to try to contact parents of remaining 1,000 to 1,200 students whose consent forms they haven't received.

    According to the preliminary numbers, parents of more than 2,500 students have declined assignments at year-round schools.

  • At the school board meeting Wednesday, school administrators will tell members exactly how many families opted for traditional calendar schools.

    JUNE 5: Administrators recommend which areas to reassign to allow families to attend traditional-calendar schools.

    JUNE 19: School board votes on traditional-calendar schools.

    JUNE 20: Letters mailed to families telling them which traditional-calendar school they'll attend.

    JUNE 25-JULY 6: Families can appeal traditional calendar assignments.

    JULY 9: Classes begin for the Track 1, 2 and 3 students at year-round schools.

For Shannon Blackmon, looking for a home has come with its own set of complexities, but trying to find a home to keep one of her kids on a traditional calendar adds another layer to the process.

Blackmon and her kids live off East Lake Anne Drive near Glenwood Avenue. Her kids attend Stough Elementary School, Leesville Road and Martin middle schools and Leesville Road High School.

Due to a divorce, the home on East Lake Anne Drive has to be sold. Blackmon has now started the hunt for another home. She wants to remain in the Leesville area district, so her oldest daughter, Rebekah, can finish her last two years of high school at Leesville Road.

But depending on where Blackmon moves, it could mean her 10-year-old son Jacob might have to attend Leesville Road Elementary School, slated for a year-round calendar in July.

"The added component of moving is having to worry about the school, and I shouldn't have to," said Blackmon, who voted against last fall's bond issue because of the year-round calendar. "I want Jacob on the same schedule with his three siblings."

The year-round calendar, which has become the center of a scalding debate, allows students to attend school throughout the year, but with more frequent, shorter breaks.

Blackmon doesn't feel that the district was in a position to continue with the year-round conversions after a judge ruled this month that the school system had to have parental consent before sending kids to the schools. The district is appealing the ruling.

"It's absolutely ludicrous that they're doing this now," she said.

With three kids on a traditional-calendar school, summer outings to dinner or movies will have to be limited so Jacob could get ready for school for the next day if he's assigned to Leesville Road. Family vacations to Florida will also have to be rearranged around the year-round calendar.

"It will severely hamper what we will be able to do," said Blackmon, 42, an office manager at Mahlum Law Office in Raleigh.

There are a lot of uncertainties for the Blackmons.

Shannon Blackmon hasn't found a new home. And since Jacob doesn't currently attend a year-round school, she didn't receive a consent form last week along with the other parents of 30,500 students assigned to year-round schools.

If Jacob is assigned to a year-round calendar, Blackmon can opt out and have him assigned to a traditional-calendar school. If she doesn't like the traditional-calendar school, she can file a transfer request to another school.

Longtime residents of Wake County, the Blackmons have been sheltered from annual reassignments, which uproots thousands of children each year placing them in different schools for diversity and to deal with growth.

Jacob was close to being reassigned last year to the new year-round Brier Creek Elementary School. But the board decided to leave a part of the family's neighborhood in place at Stough.

"We had been one of the nodes in the right spot until Brier Creek was built," she said.

Earlier this week, Blackmon and the kids visited a home near Leesville Road. The home fits her price range and she's keeping her fingers crossed that she'll be able to move soon.

* * *

Julea Danielson and her husband, Matthew, want their son, Grant, to attend a year-round-calendar school.

That's why they moved from downtown Cary to a newer subdivision in northwest Cary, where the nearby elementary school, Green Hope, is slated to operate on a year-round calendar in July.

Danielson could be close to getting the family's wish for Grant. She eagerly gave her consent when she received a letter last week asking whether she wanted him on a year-round calendar. Parents of 30,500 students were required to give their consent to attend the schools, according to a Wake judge's ruling.

Grant had been previously assigned to Track 2. Depending on final year-round consent figures, track assignments could change.

But that's an adjustment the Danielsons said the family could make.

The family is attracted to the year-round calendar because of the frequent breaks students receive throughout the year. Julea Danielson, who recalled getting bored as a child over the long summer break, said she thinks the calendar is better for Grant, a rising kindergartner. His younger brother, Adam, won't start school for a few more years.

"I think kids are like sponges, are constantly learning, but I remember spending the first two months of school having to review after summer vacation," said Danielson, 37, who grew up in Cary.

She said the family plans to make track-out breaks a learning experience for Grant. If he is studying dinosaurs, they'll take a trip to visit museums.

The Danielsons were excited to move to their new neighborhood, Blackstone at Amberly. Julea Danielson, a business process analyst with SAS, and Matthew, a land acquisition manager for Beazer Homes, gave up amenities offered by their old neighborhood to walk to Trader Joe's and restaurants for an up-and-coming neighborhood.

Many of the family's new neighbors are transplants from places like New York, Virginia and California.

There are enough youngsters in the area to start a little league team.

Danielson said she supported last fall's bond issue because the tremendous growth the county juggles has to be paid for.

On average, 98 new residents move to Wake County each day. And a quick Internet search on the Blackstone at Amberly shows the 117-home community is already sold out.

"I moved to a high-growth area, and I should be accommodating," Danielson said.

Parents across Wake County are waiting to see where their children will attend school next academic year -- either in a traditional-calendar school or a year-round one.

For some, the wait is simple. For others, it will be a few more weeks of uncertainty and transfer appeals.

Over the next several weeks, education reporter Kinea White Epps will check in with the Blackmons and the Danielsons as the Wake school district moves through the year-round calendar process.

To read more about the families' process, check out the Wake Ed blog at blogs.newsobserver.com/wakeed.

Staff writer Kinea White Epps can be reached at 836-4952 or kinea.white@newsobserver.com.

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