RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) – The Wake County Board of Education had the authority to assign students to year-round schools without parental consent, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled, dismissing a class-action challenge brought by disgruntled parents.
Judge Geer determined that the board’s decision was necessary to keep pace with one of the fastest-growing public school systems in the nation. Between 2000 and 2007, the student population jumped from 98,000 students to more than 128,000 students – an increase of more than 30 percent. The Wake County Planning Department estimated that an additional 65,000 students would enter the system by 2015.
The school board and the Wake County Board of Commissioners devised a plan to accommodate the influx of students, and proposed converting some schools to a year-round calendar and building new year-round schools. Year-round schools stagger students’ schedules, so that 1,000 students can be assigned to a school with a traditional capacity of only 750 students. Administrators thought the plan a fair compromise between the need for new schools and the need to cap construction costs, particularly after the community made it clear that it would oppose any school construction that exceeded $1 billion.
The year-round plan seemed viable, but the board caught flak for assigning some students to the year-round track. Eight parents and a nonprofit group filed a class action claiming the board needed parental approval to convert traditional calendar schools to mandatory year-round schools.
The trial court agreed that the year-round schools could only operate “on a voluntary consensual basis,” and the board lacked the authority to make them mandatory.
The appeals court reversed, quoting the amicus brief filed by the North Carolina Association of School Administrators: “To allow the trial court’s order and reasoning to stand would significantly impair the ability of boards and school administrators to tailor school calendars and assignment policies of each district so as to provide each student an opportunity for a sound basic education and to prudently utilize the tax resources which fund the opportunity.”