Wake Ed

Wake County school times to change because of Raleigh Beltline project

UPDATE: Click here to view the PowerPoint presented at Tuesday’s school board meeting on the impact of the road project.

Get ready for what could be some heated discussions of bell schedule changes for Wake County schools next year as the district deals with the impact of the rebuilding of the Raleigh Beltline.

As noted in today’s article, school administrators say the district will be significantly impacted by Phase 2 of the project when crews begin working December 2014 through late 2016 on the heavily traveled South Raleigh portion of I-40. We’re talking about 20 percent of bus routes being affected, leading to changes in school times across the county for what will likely be at least parts of three school years.

David Neter, Wake’s chief business officer, said schools in all but the northern part of the county might be impacted by the project. The magnet schools and the new CTE high school are caught right in the middle. But schools in other areas such as western Wake will be slammed too as drivers look for alternate routes.

Wake operates a three-tier bus system to save money. A lot of the buses run multiple routes in the morning and afternoon with the times spread out to let them serve multiple schools.

Neter said that they might have to go with earlier start times for Tier 1. We’re talking a lot of the high school and middle schools that now start around 7:30 a.m. That piece of news caused audible groans from school board members during Tuesday’s presentation.

Considering how some people say that sleep-deprived teenagers need more sleep, earlier start times might not go down well.

Schools in tiers 2 and 3 – those beginning at 8 a.m. and later – could have to start later. Considering how most elementary schools start at 9: 15 a.m. and a lot of parents think that’s already too late, this potential change might not go down well either.

A big question the school system will have to face is whether to implement the new times at the start of the 2014-15 school year or wait until later in the school year when Phase 2 begins. Historically, bell schedules don’t change in the middle of the year.

Superintendent Jim Merrill cited one potential problem with starting the new times at the start of the year. If Phase 2 is delayed, he said that families might be on these new times for most of the new school year before the road work begins.

Under board policy, bell schedules are supposed to be adopted by April 1. Neter said that they won’t know the actual impact until the road work begins so the bell schedules will have to be adopted with incomplete information.

“We’re going to have to be really thoughtful with the bell schedules,” said school board Chairwoman Christine Kushner. “We’re talking about things that can impact student achievement.”