Around 200,000 traditional-calendar students in Wake, Durham, Johnston, Orange and Chatham counties and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system will start a new school year Monday amid changes and uncertainty about what will come from the state budget.
Here are some things to know before the first day of classes.
New schools and more students in Wake
Wake County will open three new schools to help accommodate the estimated 3,000 new students moving into North Carolina’s largest school district. Wake could have more than 158,000 students this fall.
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Apex Friendship High School and Scotts Ridge Elementary School in Apex and Abbotts Creek Elementary School in North Raleigh will help deal with overcrowding at neighboring schools.
New bus stops and boarding process
Wake County has changed some bus routes in an effort, school officials say, to make the transportation system more efficient.
Bus routes will be adjusted after the first few weeks of classes.
“We do ask that parents be patient with us as bus schedules shake out,” said Wake Superintendent Jim Merrill. “I’m not expecting any significant issues, but there are typically delays as students find their way to the buses, drivers accommodate unexpected riders, parents get caught in traffic, buses get caught in traffic.”
Wake is also using a new procedure that’s supposed to make it safer for the 80,000 bus riders to board the bus. Students will now look for the crossing bar guard to fully deploy, look left and look right to check traffic and then leave the bus stop to enter the bus. Previously, students crossed the street when they saw the stop arm open.
Wake wants parents to make sure students know the new boarding procedure and check online to see if their bus stop has changed. Go to www.wcpss.net/transportation for information on bus routes, bus delays and how to request bus stop changes.
Parental permission to use computers
Wake County parents will now need to sign a consent form that either grants or denies permission for their children to use school technology. This includes school computers, computer applications and the Internet.
Previously, parents only had to sign a form if they didn’t want their children to have access.
Grading changes for high schools
Starting this fall, North Carolina’s public high school students will see changes in both how grades are awarded and in how advanced courses are treated.
All high school students will use a 10-point grading scale where an A is 90 to 100 and an F is below 60. Previously, North Carolina used a seven-point scale where an A was 93 to 100 and an F was below 70.
Also starting this fall, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses will be worth only one extra quality point. Honors courses will be worth only an extra 0.5 quality point.
Previously, AP and IB courses were worth two extra quality points, and Honors courses were worth one extra quality point.
But the changes for the advanced courses will begin only with this fall’s freshman class. The other three grade levels will still use the old system that gives more weight to those courses.
State budget uncertainty
Schools will open Monday without a final state budget in place, raising questions about how much money will be provided for teacher assistants and driver’s education.
House and Senate leaders have agreed to set the budget at $21.74 billion, but the details haven’t been worked out. The $21.74 billion figure is closer to the original Senate budget that would cut thousands of teacher assistants and not fund driver’s education than the House plan that would fully fund both items.
Some school districts have put a hiring freeze on teacher assistants or warned those employees they might be laid off. Wake school officials have continued to hire teacher assistants as usual and say they’ll make any adjustments if needed.
But Wake is among at least one-third of North Carolina school districts that have suspended driver’s education until they know whether the state will fund any of those classes. The suspension has left more than 3,300 Wake teenagers unable to complete the course to get their learner’s permits.
T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui