Wake Ed

Wake County wants to operate 10 schools more like charter schools

From left, Kelly Morales, 7, Leslye Monterroza, 6, and Joselynne Serrano, 6, read through books donated through the WAKE Up and Read Book Drive during a book fair at Fox Road Elementary School in Raleigh on May 2, 2016. The Wake County school board voted Tuesdsay, Nov. 15, 2016, to ask for state permission to let Fox Road and nine other schools operate more like charter schools.
From left, Kelly Morales, 7, Leslye Monterroza, 6, and Joselynne Serrano, 6, read through books donated through the WAKE Up and Read Book Drive during a book fair at Fox Road Elementary School in Raleigh on May 2, 2016. The Wake County school board voted Tuesdsay, Nov. 15, 2016, to ask for state permission to let Fox Road and nine other schools operate more like charter schools. jhknight@newsobserver.com

Wake County school leaders want 10 academically struggling schools to get state permission to operate more like charter schools beginning next school year in an effort to boost student performance.

The Wake school board voted Tuesday to request extra flexibility for Bugg, Fox Road, Millbrook and Poe elementary schools and Carroll and East Millbrook middle schools in Raleigh; East Garner Elementary and East Garner Middle in Garner; East Wake Middle near Knightdale and Wendell Middle School.

Wake wants the State Board of Education to give those 10 schools the same flexibility that charter schools now get to set their school calendars and to spend state money. This could mean changes at those schools such as longer school years, longer school days and new programs to reduce class sizes and provide more training and other resources.

“If the principals want flexibility and the (superintendent’s leadership) team wants the flexibility to be innovative around time and staffing, that’s something important for us to consider,” said school board member Christine Kushner.

Charter schools receive exemptions because they are taxpayer-funded public schools that are meant to be laboratories for innovation. Traditional public schools have long clamored for the same flexibility as charter schools, but state leaders have only been willing to offer it to struggling schools.

A state policy, based on a 2010 state law, lets school districts ask for permission from the State Board of Education to give charter-like flexibility to schools that have been low-performing for two of the past three years. This option is called the “restart model.”

“What we can do when we request restart status is it quite frankly gives us a lot more flexibility than we currently have,” Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for academic advancement, told school board members,

Wake got state permission to use the restart model this school year at Barwell Road and Walnut Creek elementary schools in Southeast Raleigh. It’s led to changes such as an extra 10 days of classes and a longer school day on Thursdays for extra-curricular clubs..

Moore said all 10 principals want to use the restart model. But she said specific details on how the calendar and funding flexibility would be used haven’t been determined yet.

“All they’re interested in is, ‘Give me some flexibility and then we can figure out what it looks like,’ ” Moore said.

But the calendar used could be a major issue for families when they consider whether to apply to any of the magnet schools that are seeking restart status.

For instance,Walnut Creek Elementary switched to a year-round schedule in order to offer the extra 10 days during part of the periodic three-week breaks in the calendar. But Moore said the new restart schools may not go the year-round calendar route.

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