NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Year-round schools in New Hanover County could switch back to a traditional school calendar beginning with the next school year.
The Senate has included in their budget a new sub-section to the school calendar law that defines a "year-round-school". There are several problems with the definition, including that it would only allow for multi-track and does not allow for single-track year-round schools. All year-round schools in New Hanover County are single-track. As a result, if the definition is approved as part of the final budget bill, they would all revert back to a traditional school calendar beginning with the next school year.
NHCS has four year-round elementary schools, Codington, Eaton, Lake Forest and Sunset Park. For the upcoming 2016-2017 school year, the district will have three additional schools operating as year round: Rachel Freeman School of Engineering, Snipes Academy of Arts and Design, and D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy.
A letter went out to impacted families at Codington Elementary this week. Principals at other NHCS year-round schools were also asked to notify parents of the proposed change.
"I was furious, there is no other way to say it other than just being furious," said Lori Smith, whose sons go to Codington.
"I was shocked. My mouth dropped on the floor, I couldn't believe this was a possibility, so close to the end of the school year. I had to read it twice, did they really mean to do it next school year?" said Michelle Leonard, whose twins also go to Codington.
Both said they specifically sought out year-round school for their children and they are not the only parents who did so.
"We chose to go to Codington for the year-round schedule," said Sara Eagle, whose son goes to Codington. "It's been proven that retention is a whole lot better with the year-round calendar because the kids are only out of school for four weeks in the summer, three weeks on the other breaks."
"I see how much it benefits my kids to have those frequent breaks, just when you think you are about to give up, you can't do it anymore, it's time for a break, and my kids are excelling," said Leonard.
"We were concerned," said Dr. Tim Markley, the superintendent for New Hanover County Schools. "We did inform the principals of the year-round schools to day and ask them to let their parents know. We are hoping it is simply and oversight and we can fix it before it goes out to conference in committee and comes out for a final vote."
He said he wrote a letter to local representatives asking for help getting the language changed.
"I am asking for help to ensure that this subsection is revised or eliminated. Leaving it in is not in the best interest of the students in New Hanover County Schools," Dr. Markley said in a letter to Rep. Ted Davis.
Representative Susi Hamilton also received a letter from Dr. Markley. She said she was surprised and wants to make sure year-round schools can continue in New Hanover County.
"I'm surprised and I can tell you that I've received no less than 150 emails since early this afternoon," said Rep. Hamilton. "It's coming in rapidly, parents are very upset, the school superintendent is very upset and I am sure that the School Board will have some concerns about this as well."
She also said many working parents depend on year-round schools.
"In modern day society both parents typically work outside the home," said Rep. Hamilton. "Year-round school options for parents in working families has always been a positive thing and serviced a lot of families who have single parents working in the home or both parents working in the home. Year-round schools is a benefit to students, it's a benefit to working families in North Carolina. It's been in place in New Hanover County for over 18 years and we don't see any rational reason to stop it."
According to Senator Michael Lee, the language in the budget was not intended to impact New Hanover County Schools, but address another issue in another part of the state.
I am working on this issue now and am confident it will be remedied," Lee explained. "If Superintendent Markley had called me, I would have conveyed to him that there was no cause for alarm."
Parents said whether it was intended or not, they'll continue to fight for the language to stay until it is clear that year-round schools in New Hanover County are here to stay.