Some Wake County families have won at least a temporary victory to save their school calendars and start times, but another group of families is getting ready to fight against possible changes to their year-round schools.
The Wake school board voted Tuesday to postpone until at least April 4 a decision on whether to change the start times for Apex High, Wake Forest Middle and Apex, Heritage and North Forest Pines elementary schools for the 2017-18 school year.
The board also voted Tuesday to send back to a board committee a staff recommendation to change the calendars in 2018 at eight schools in eastern Wake and Garner.
Families at those 13 schools had lobbied against the changes that they said would disrupt their lives.
“It was a combination of things,” school board Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler said Wednesday. “Absolutely the comments and questions we get from parents matter. We follow them up with staff.”
But school leaders should also expect to hear from families attending multi-track year-round schools. They’re upset at the possibility that four to eight multi-track schools could be converted to a traditional calendar in 2018.
“People complain that the calendar is constantly changing,” said Leigh Silverstein, a parent at Carpenter Elementary, a multi-track school in Cary.
The calendar questions revolve around the role of traditional-calendar schools in Wake.
The majority of Wake’s 159,000 students attend traditional-calendar schools, which open in late August and end by early June. Students have summer breaks of 10 or more weeks.
In year-round schools, the summer vacation is reduced to a month or less, and students have three-week breaks throughout the school year.
At multi-track schools, students are split into four groups, or tracks, that follow their own schedules and can increase a building’s capacity by as much as 33 percent.
Wake had 51 multi-track schools in 2009, but has since converted several schools to a traditional calendar or to a single-track year-round calendar. There will be 36 multi-track schools this fall.
“Traditional calendar is becoming more the default calendar for the district,” Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for academic advancement, told the school board Tuesday.
As part of an ongoing study of the year-round schools, staff recommended that East Wake and North Garner middle schools and Carver, Lockhart, Rand Road and Vance elementary schools convert from single track or the modified calendar to a traditional calendar in the 2018-19 school year.
Lake Myra and Timber Drive elementary schools are proposed to switch to a multi-track year-round calendar.
In the next stage of the calendar study, administrators will recommend converting two multi-track middle schools and two to six multi-track elementary schools in 2018.
Johnson-Hostler said part of the reason the board held off Tuesday on the eastern Wake and Garner schools is that they ran out of time earlier in the day to discuss the new multi-track recommendations. The multi-track discussion is expected April 4.
“I don’t think people should assume anything,” she said. “This is a thoughtful, conscientious and intentional board.”
Johnson-Hostler said board members are also preparing to hear from parents at the multi-track schools.
School officials have identified 18 multi-track schools for discussion for calendar conversion. The middle schools are Durant Road, East Cary, Lufkin, Pine Hollow and Salem. The elementary schools are Alston Ridge, Ballentine, Banks Road, Durant Road, Herbert Akins, Heritage, Laurel Park, Middle Creek, North Forest Pines, Pleasant Union, Salem, Sanford Creek and Turner Creek.
The schools that would be recommended for conversion would be named in April.
Silverstein said western Wake parents are in an uproar about potentially losing the multi-track calendar.
“I think Wake needs to work to better utilize all of its existing buildings because they can’t afford to build them quickly enough to run them as traditional,” she said.