Wake County parents who think they can volunteer anytime they want at their child's school will get a rude surprise if they don't register with the school system today.
Citing the financial cost of running criminal background checks, the Wake school system will close its volunteer registration system at 5 p.m. today. People who want to volunteer won't have another opportunity until December when registration will again be open for one week. Another week of registration will be held in the spring, school officials say. In the meantime, principals are being told not to accept volunteer applications after today unless the help is "absolutely necessary."
"We're trying to balance safety needs and financial needs," said Michael Evans, a Wake schools' spokesman.
Principals were notified about the shutdown Tuesday. Schools have sent phone and e-mail messages urging people to register by today.
The effect on school activities dependent on volunteers is uncertain. Sarah Martin, past president of the Wake County PTA Council, said PTAs might not have enough volunteers for activities such as science fairs and book fairs.
"I wish there had been a little more warning for the blackout date," Martin said.
Wake began running criminal background checks on all volunteers this year. Previously, Wake ran those checks only on volunteers who have one-on-one or unsupervised access outside the classroom with students, such as tutors and field trip chaperones.
Other school districts in the area follow Wake's prior practice of background checks and don't restrict registration.