Four Wake County schools could be switched to the traditional calendar for the 2016-17 school year, continuing the district’s move away from the controversial year-round calendar.
School administrators said Wednesday they want to discuss whether to have Brier Creek Elementary in North Raleigh, Highcroft Drive Elementary in Cary and Salem Elementary and Salem Middle in Apex convert to the traditional calendar.
Year-rounds schools were once considered an integral part of helping Wake County deal with rapid student growth. But now school leaders say there are too many year-round schools in western Wake and too few traditional-calendar schools.
“We’ve got to look at what the parents are looking at,” said school board member Kevin Hill, chairman of the facilities committee. “If we continue to hear there’s less demand for year-round then we need to examine that.”
Never miss a local story.
The schedule most families have known for generations is the traditional calendar, in which students get a two-month summer break.
In the year-round calendar, students give up the extended summer break in favor of three-week breaks at intervals during the school year. By putting the building in constant use, year-round schools can increase capacity by as much as 33 percent.
The school system had a mass expansion in the year-round calendar during the mid-to-late 2000s in preparation for what was expected to be massive growth. But slower-than-expected growth during the recession, parental opposition and a lawsuit kept many of the new and converted year-round schools below their projected enrollments.
Over the past five years, Wake has converted several year-round schools back to a traditional schedule and no longer opens all new elementary and middle schools on a year-round calendar.
“It doesn’t do us much good to build more year-round schools if people don’t want to go,” said Tim Simmons, a Wake County schools spokesman.
Even with the reduction in the number of year-round schools, administrators said Wednesday that many of those schools in western Wake are below capacity. But at the same time, many western Wake traditional-calendar schools are over capacity.
For instance, Salem Elementary is at 62 percent of capacity and Salem Middle is at 87 percent.
School board member Susan Evans said converting Highcroft and Salem would help western Wake deal with being over-saturated with year-round schools.
“It will free up traditional seats that are much needed,” she said.
There’s different reasoning, however, behind converting Brier Creek.
Switching Brier Creek Elementary to the traditional calendar would allow a new nearby elementary school to open on a year-round schedule. Administrators say it makes more sense for the new school to operate on the year-round calendar because it’s bigger than Brier Creek and can hold more students.
Community meetings will be held in June with families at Highcroft and Salem to discuss the potential change. A new meeting isn’t planned at Brier Creek, where parents objected to the potential change at a January meeting.
An official recommendation could come in June, with the school board voting on any changes in July.
“I am very happy to see us at least open up the conversation with the community in the western area about how we address the imbalance that we have right now between multi-track year-round and traditional seats,” Evans said.
Hui: 919-829-4534; Twitter: @nckhui