Wakefield Middle stays traditional
September 21, 2006
Wake County school board members took Wakefield Middle off the list of schools to be converted to year-round on Tuesday, paring the list to just three.
Later that afternoon, they voted to convert Salem Middle, North Garner and East Wake Middle to the year-round calendar.
Both Wakefield, and Leesville which until Tuesday was also on the list to be converted will remain on the traditional calendar.
Before voting, board member Beverley Clark said her goal was to limit the number of year-round conversions as much as possible. “Don’t think anybody on this board thinks this is an easy decision,” she said to parents in attendance.
Board chair Patti Head agreed. “Would we prefer to do this differently (if we could)?” she asked. “Yes.”
Board member Ron Margiotta, who has long made it clear he opposes forced calendar conversions, said, “We removed two schools from the hit list today. I’m sorry we didn’t follow through on the remainder.”
Wakefield Middle was taken off the list at the request of Carol Parker, Lori Millberg said. Both are school board members.
The rationale was that Wakefield parents could apply to send their children to Durant Middle or Heritage Middle if they wanted to continue with year-round, Millberg said.
While she agreed with Parker, Millberg worries that parents of children at other converted elementary schools will not have a year-round option when their children reach middle school.
Leesville Middle was taken off the list because less than half of those students come from year-round schools, Millberg said.
Converting a middle school which is not supported by year-round schools is a “worst-case scenario,” she said. Families would end up with children on both traditional and year-round schedules, something parents and board members would like to avoid.
A number of parents spoke out against the Wakefield conversions in last week’s public hearing held at Sanderson High School.
Andrea Pfeiffer told board members that night that middle schoolers have very different needs than elementary kids. She told them conversion would “mess up the middle school experience.”
Maria Chansler said that Wakefield families were surrounded by Durant and Heritage schools “two sets of year-round. Why do we need another set?”
Micki McCarl, who moved to Bedford from another Raleigh subdivision, said year-round fit her family for the first few years. At the time, her children were young and she was a stay-at-home mom.
But as her children got older, “we didn’t like year-round anymore.” Saturday makeup days interfered with soccer games and the short summer vacations meant her girls couldn’t go off to camp. “We moved to Bedford for school assignment,” she said.
Chuck Hieronymi, who has four children in the Wakefield Schools, told the board that night that a “large and meaningful portion of the Wakefield community is opposed” to converting to year-round. “Listen to the voices of your partners families and caregivers,” he said.
McCarl said Wednesday morning she was thrilled with the board’s decision to leave Wakefield Middle alone.
Her youngest just started sixth grade there, and “she did not want to go back to year-round,” she said.
Chansler, the mother of a seventh- and an 11th-grader, said she too was grateful that the school board took Wakefield Middle off the list of schools to be converted to year-round.
It just didn’t make sense, she said, to make Wakefield Middle year-round when parents in that community already had a choice to send their children to nearby Heritage or Durant middle schools.
Hieronymi, who joined a group of parents in circulating a petition protesting the conversion of Wakefield Middle, said he was pleased that the board listened to Wakefield parents. He has four children at Wakefield schools one in elementary, one in middle and two at the high school.
Hieronymi said he is not happy with the board’s decision to make Wakefield Elementary year-round, and that he would continue to work for “system-wide choice.”
A few weeks ago, school board members voted to convert Wakefield and 18 other elementary schools to the year-round calendar, effective next school year.
The decisions leave two existing Wakefield schools the middle and the high school on the traditional calendar. Forest Pines Elementary, which will move from Wake Forest to its permanent campus in Wakefield next fall, will also follow the traditional calendar.
Wakefield Elementary and a brand-new school, North Forest Pines Elementary, will open in Wakefield as year-round schools next fall.
The new configuration surrounding Wakefield is a mix of both traditional and year-round, which, ideally, would give more parents a choice of calendars.
Although the details have yet to be worked out, Millberg said she expects parents will eventually be assigned to both a base and an alternate school. Parents whose children are assigned to a year-round but want a traditional school could then apply to the alternate school.
While many Wakefield parents might be relieved at the board’s decision to leave the middle school on the traditional calendar, Millberg suspects any celebrating will be short-lived.
“Leesville and Wakefield parents may feel like they’ve dodged a bullet,” she said, “but when reassignment comes out, they’re not going to feel (that way),” she said.
Growth management officials will have to juggle all the coming changes year-round conversions, new subdivisions and the opening of new schools before assigning students to school for the 2007-08 school year.