Highcroft Drive Elementary was bustling with eager fifth-graders Thursday morning. They waited to hear their names called – officially signaling they were done with elementary school – while their parents’ cheers echoed through the crowd.
For these fifth-graders, they never knew what it was like to be part of traditional calendar school. Since 2007, Highcroft has been a on a year-round calendar, where students went to school for nine weeks and had a three-week break between.
But for the 2016-17 school year, Highcroft is converting to a traditional calendar, where the school will operate for nine months and have a lengthier summer break.
Principal Tanner Gamble, who has been at the school for four years, said the change came because of a higher demand for the schedule in the Highcroft district.
“There is a greater desire in this area,” Gamble said. “There’s a real draw for seats for traditional schools, and there was lack of availability.”
The decision, he said, came from a long process of information-gathering by the Wake County Public School System, where they listened to feedback from parents. Ultimately, more parents wanted a traditional calendar than a year-round one.
Mills Park Middle, which Highcroft feeds into, is on a traditional calendar, and class schedules matching up was a major motivator for the change, Gamble said.
“For a lot of families, as they have older children now that feed into traditional schools, it created a calendar mismatch,” Gamble said.
The adjustment, however, he said won’t be too dramatic for the school. They’ll just have to shift their holiday schedules and timing of report cards and work days.
Dana Murphy, a Highcroft parent and PTA board member, said it evened things out for her family.
“I think it’ll actually be a good adjustment,” she said. “We found that it was really hard to get back in and out every nine weeks.”
She said the three-week breaks made getting back into the nine-week class periods hard for her kids.
“We’re looking forward to not continuing to have to adjust in and out when you come back,” she said. “We feel like there’s always a week of getting back into things.”
Jen Martz, another PTA board member and parent, wasn’t as excited.
“I personally would like to stay year-round,” she said. “I’ve got three kids, one on traditional, one on track (4), and I made it work for three years.”
There are a few adjustments that she isn’t looking forward to.
“The retention during the summer, education speaking, will not be nice,” she said. “And then having to pay full-price for spring break and being away with everyone else in the United States.”
She tried to remain optimistic, though, and said there are some transitions she’ll enjoy.
“It’ll be nice that it’s traditional just like most people,” she said. “Like my family up north is on traditional calendar, so that’ll be nice. Our summers will be longer than three and a half weeks. That’ll be nice.”
Lauren Kmetz, a fifth-grade teacher at Highcroft, said she’s not too worried about the changes.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a really big deal.” she said. “The biggest adjustment will just be having the long break over the summer instead of multiple breaks throughout the year.”
She said there is an appeal to the calendars matching up with the local middle school.
“A lot of people will be on the same calendar,” she said. “So a lot of people are excited about that.”
Paige Connelly: 919-460-2609, @pconnellly