Wake schools balk at 5 more days

Preference is to lengthen day

Staff WriterJune 23, 2011 

— Introduction of a new student assignment plan and a protracted battle to elect a new vice chairman weren't the only issues that confronted Wake County school board members this week.

During the meeting Tuesday, the school board approved changes affecting how long students are in school this fall and the way student discipline will be handled in the state's largest school district.

Here's more about the effect of the decisions:

Longer school day: Wake schools could end 10 minutes later this fall - or maybe not.

The school board gave Superintendent Tony Tata the authority to add 10 minutes to each school day for the 2011-12 school year.

It's part of Wake's request to the state Board of Education for permission to not follow a provision in the recently passed state budget that requires school districts to extend the school year by five days.

The number of required instruction hours would also increase 2.5 percent to 1,025 hours annually.

Donna Hargens, Wake's chief academic officer, said school officials hope that the state board will grant waivers without requiring the additional 25 hours. But if the state says schools must add the hours to get the waiver, then the new longer school day will go into effect.

School administrators initially proposed starting school five minutes earlier and ending it five minutes later.

But the board chose to add all 10 minutes to the end of the day after school board member Deborah Prickett said she didn't want to make high school students come to class any earlier in the morning.

The state board scheduled a conference call meeting for Friday to discuss how to handle waiver requests.

Wake school officials said they haven't decided yet which schedule to use if no decision on the waiver is made before year-round schools start the new school year July 11.

Tata plans to add the five additional days for the 2012-13 school year. But school administrators said it would be too much of a problem to adjust the calendar on such short notice for the year-round schools.

Discipline policy: The Wake school board gave initial approval to overhaul the student discipline policy to reduce the use of zero tolerance and decrease how often students are suspended from school.

Under the new code of student conduct, only a few offenses such as bringing a gun to school would be subject to an automatic long-term suspension of more than 10 days.

Many offenses would only result in at most a short-term suspension of 10 or less days or allow principals to use their discretion to not issue long-term suspensions based on mitigating factors.

A final vote before the changes go into effect is scheduled for July 12.

Rejoining association: The school board voted to rejoin the N.C. School Boards Association at a cost of $27,265.

Citing financial reasons, the Republican majority on the school board had voted last year to withdraw from the group, becoming the only school district in the state not to be a member.

Tata recommended rejoining the association to take advantage of the services the group provides, including lobbying with state legislators, training and help with revising policies.

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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