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WUNC's American Graduate Project is part of a nationwide public media conversation about the dropout crisis. We'll explore the issue through news reports, call-in programs and a forum produced with UNC-TV. Also as a part of this project we've partnered with the Durham Nativity School and YO: Durham to found the WUNC Youth Radio Club. These reports are part of American Graduate-Let’s Make it Happen!- a public media initiative to address the drop out crisis, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and these generous funders: Project Funders:GlaxoSmithKlineThe Goodnight Educational FoundationJoseph M. Bryan Foundation State FarmThe Grable FoundationFarrington FoundationMore education stories from WUNC

Parents Push Back Against Senate Proposal To Redefine Year-Round Calendar

a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.
Leigh Ann Cross

A provision in the Senate's budget proposalwould force some year-round schools to change their calendars within the next couple months.The Senate budget redefines the year-round school calendar so that year round-schools can only use a multi-track calendar. Multi-track schools divide students into groups that rotate in and out of school throughout the entire year.

Many year-round schools put all students on a single track, with a shorter summer break. Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) said that was not the original intent of the law.

"The original language was multiple track, and it was changed and taken advantage of, and we're not real happy about that," he said in an interview.

Apodaca said he added the change after hearing from the travel and tourism industry. The change would go into effect starting in the 2016-2017 school year.

"The intent of the law was to give folks summers," he said.

Families who send their children to single track year-round schools are not happy about the proposed change.

Sonya Sutton is president-elect of the Parent Teacher Association at Hillsborough Elementary. She said she prefers the school's single-track year-round schedule in which students attend school for about 45 days followed by three weeks off, with a longer six-week break in the summer.

"It gives a really great opportunity for kids to have a break more frequently, and for teachers to have one as well," Sutton said. "[That] also allows for us to spread out our vacations and other activities and things that we're able to do as a family, and keeps them from having that summer learning loss that often happens from long summer breaks."

Sutton said if the proposal becomes law, her school would adopt the traditional calendar, adding unexpected weeks to students' summer.

"So if we suddenly have six more weeks of summer, I'm either going to have to take time from my job or my husband's going to  have to do that, and we're going to have to figure out where our kids are going to be able to be until the end of August," she said.

The change would affect at least three schools in Cumberland County, one school in Orange County and several schools in Durham County. Parents have created online petitions asking lawmakers not to go forward with the change.

When asked if he had concerns about families' having to make big last-minute scheduling changes, Apodaca conceded this year might be difficult.

"Well, we may do it this year, but going forward, they're going to know when their kids go," he said.

The Senate budget defines a year-round school calendar as multi-track, with one of the following schedules:

  • A plan that divides students into four groups and requires each to be in school for three assigned and staggered quarters each school year;
  • A plan that provides that students shall be scheduled to attend 45 days of classes followed by 15 days of vacation repeated throughout the school year;
  • A plan that divides the school year into five nine-week sessions of classes and requires each student to attend four of the five nine-week sessions.


Jess is WUNC's Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting. Her reporting focuses on how decisions made at the North Carolina General Assembly affect the state's students, families, teachers and communities.
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