School board passes measures about security, high school calendar

More consensus follows year-round calendar hearing
Jan. 09, 2013 @ 06:07 PM

The Lee County Board of Education held a widely scrutinized vote Tuesday night on year-round calendar changes, but that wasn't all the board tackled in a meeting that lasted well into the night — when the board also addressed the high school calendar and security issues.

Other than its unanimous vote to hold off on moving all pre-K through eighth grade classes to a year-round calendar, the board held several other votes that also passed unanimously, including a resolution to seek permission to make slight changes to the traditional calendar for high schools and to approve security measures in the wake of the recent Newton, Conn., shootings.

The district wants to start high school classes earlier to align them more closely with classes at Central Carolina Community College. According to the resolution passed at the meeting (the full text of which can be found at http://bit.ly/WzMygH), the board maintains that such a change might ease local unemployment woes by making it easier for students to participate in vocational programs like the lauded Caterpillar apprenticeship.

The resolution asks the three elected officials who represent Lee County in the General Assembly to introduce and support a bill giving local schools a special waiver that's needed in order to deviate from the state's scheduling guidelines, under which high schools this year started 10 days after CCCC in the fall.

Superintendent Jeff Moss said that if a waiver were to be approved, future schedules for local public high school students will be similar to the one used at Lee Early College, which this year will be in from Aug. 8 to May 24. Traditional high schools started on Aug. 27 and will get out on June 7.

Moss said he hasn't spoken with state Rep. Deb McManus or state Sen. Ronald Rabin about the issue yet, but that he has had productive talks with state Rep. Mike Stone.

"He told me that he'd be willing to see what he could do to introduce something that would be helpful for our schools," Moss said.

If the bill passed before late spring or early summer, Moss said, the changes could begin with the upcoming 2013-14 school year.

The security vote has a less definite timeline. The plan is twofold but centers around installing an intercom system controlled by a receptionist who would act as gate-keeper for the main entrances of each school, which are now kept open and monitored lightly.

On Monday, Moss presented the lowest of three bids for the project, a quote of just more than $200,000, to the Lee County Board of Commissioners, but that panel tabled the vote. Instead, county and school officials and local law enforcement will hold talks at a later date to discuss school security. Moss said he brought the bid to the school board on Tuesday — which passed it pending county funding — so that everything can move ahead as quickly as possible should funding be approved.

He said he thinks that will happen, and that the upcoming meeting will mainly focus on additional measures, like placing an armed guard in each of the nine district schools that don't have one now.

"I think if the funding is available, that's a great idea," said Moss, who has opposed a proposal to arm individual teachers that was floated by the National Rifle Association. "The two areas I believe would have the greatest impact would be to first secure our buildings, and second, to have law enforcement at our buildings."

And although the board did vote earlier in the night not to amend the pre-K through eighth grade calendar just yet — which would also require the redistricting of all the county's elementary schools — several members did express support for year-round schools and said they would be interested in moving to such a calendar if future research shows it would be a good decision both academically and economically, possibly as early as the 2014-15 school year.

Before the vote, board members and speakers from the audience of 200-plus community members questioned the depth of research conducted by the committee that came up with the proposed change, as well as the speed with which it would've been done. Moss said Wednesday that financial analysis was done for everything except the cost of redistricting, and that he would soon be sharing those figures with board members for future consideration.