Amid passionate pleas from parents, the Wake County school board postponed Tuesday plans to change the calendars for eight schools and the school start times at five other schools.
Families at all 13 schools had opposed the changes on the school district’s discussion forum with several speakers coming to the board meeting. School board members responded Tuesday by delaying the vote on the bell schedule changes to April 4 and sending the calendar changes back to a board committee.
“Several board members had unresolved questions,” said school board Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler. “They didn’t want to vote until the questions were resolved.”
Administrators had proposed that East Wake and North Garner middle schools and Carver, Lockhart, Rand Road and Vance elementary schools convert to a traditional calendar in the 2018-19 school year. Lake Myra and Timber Drive elementary schools were proposed to switch to a multi-track year-round calendar.
Administrators said the changes are designed to make sure schools are efficiently balanced to reduce the number of overcrowded and under-utilized schools.
Some Rand Road parents argued against the proposal, citing the benefits of the periodic three-week breaks in the year-round schedule.
“Please, please listen to our voices and keep Rand Road on a track 4 schedule,” said Colleen Roby, a Rand Road parent.
Now the issue will be reviewed again by the school board’s student achievement committee.
Families at the five schools facing new bell schedules in the 2017-18 school year won at least a reprieve to the April 4 board meeting. The school board waived a policy which requires bell schedules to be adopted annually by March 31.
Starting in the 2017-18 school year, Apex High, Wake Forest Middle and Apex, Heritage and North Forest Pines elementary schools could see new start times. Transportation officials blamed the changes on not having enough school bus drivers to accommodate four new schools this fall and Apex High students relocating to a new site in Cary while their campus is rebuilt.
“We’ve had to make hard decisions to make sure we can get students to schools,” said Bob Snidemiller, senior director of transportation.
The proposed changes are:
▪ Shift Apex High’s school day 15 minutes earlier, from 7:10 a.m. to 2:03 p.m
▪ Shift Apex Elementary 45 minutes later, from 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
▪ Shift Heritage Elementary in Wake Forest 15 minutes later, from 8:25 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.
▪ Shift North Forest Pines Elementary in North Raleigh 90 minutes later, from 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m
▪ Shift Wake Forest Middle 10 minutes earlier, from 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.
“Let’s look at the bigger problem of transportation,” said Brett Geoffrey, PTA vice president at Heritage Elementary. “How do we find more bus drivers?”