Leaders of Project LIFT will narrow the list of schools being considered for an extended year-round calendar at a public forum next week.
The public-private partnership has been polling families and employees at West Charlotte High and its eight feeder schools to see whether theres support for a 200-day school year in 2013-14 (the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools calendar has 180 days this year and 185 next year). Results of that survey and a plan for moving forward will be presented in a meeting at Thomasboro Academy on Wednesday.
Brandi Williams of Project LIFT said some schools are coming off the table because there wasnt enough support.
West Charlotte High is likely to be among them. During public forums in October, families voiced concerns that without a traditional summer break, high school students would miss opportunities to earn money and/or take advantage of camps and programs that would prepare them for college.
The (high school) parents are adamantly against the idea of year-round school, said Jerry Bridges, parent of a son in West Charlottes International Baccalaureate magnet.
Denise Watts, zone superintendent for the Project LIFT schools, previously told the school board she also heard concerns from Statesville Road Elementary and Ranson Middle School, which include magnet programs. Because students from outside the attendance zones can choose those magnets, the chances are greater that families would have children with clashing calendars.
Narrowing the list will reduce the cost of paying faculty, bus drivers, other staff and utility costs. Watts had estimated the cost at $4.7 million a year for all nine schools, which serve about 7,100 students.
Project LIFT for Leadership and Investment for Transformation has $55 million in private donations pledged for a five-year effort to boost achievement at the nine struggling schools, but donors had voiced concern about spending so much of that on a longer school year.
Nationally and locally, longer school years have proven popular in theory but challenging in execution.
The N.C. General Assembly granted special permission for Project LIFT schools to extend the school year, as long as no state money is spent to do it.
Watts says the extra days could benefit students, many of whom are performing below grade level. Instead of a long summer break, when students tend to lose skills, theyd have shorter breaks with academic enrichment programs, such as robotics camp, available at no charge.
At October forums on the plan, many parents and teachers voiced enthusiasm for the benefits in younger grades. The survey was conducted to get a clearer view of whether the plan has the overwhelming support Watts wants to move ahead.
Williams said Watts will present those results on Wednesday, but the decision about whether to pursue an extended calendar at some or all of the schools that arent withdrawn from consideration will be left to the school board.
Watts had originally planned to unveil her recommendation to the public in November and take it to the school board on Tuesday. But tallying survey results and coming up with a plan took longer than expected.
The plan will now go to the board Jan. 8.
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