Year-Round Schools Safe, Purser Says
The Moore County school system has no plans to eliminate the year-round program as a cost-cutting measure, despite rumors to the contrary.
Superintendent Susan Purser denied claims made in a string of e-mails circulated around the county by former school board member Jennifer Garner that the current board was prepared to end the year-round program throughout the system.
Purser sent out a "Connect-ED" phone message to parents and staff at the three schools that offer year-round -- Southern Pines Primary, Southern Pines Elementary and Academy Heights Elementary -- to clear up the misunderstanding.
"It has come to my attention that there may be a misunderstanding regarding our year-round programs at Southern Pines Primary, Southern Pines Elementary, and Academy Heights Elementary," she said in the message. "I would like to make it clear that there is no proposal to discontinue our year-round program in grades K-5 at any of our three year-round schools."
Purser said the misunderstanding must have been caused by a decision to discontinue the sixth-grade year-round class at Southern Pines Elementary, which was included in her budget proposal to the school board Monday.
Purser said during the meeting that enrollment was not strong enough to justify continued staff allocation to that class.
"I am furious," Garner said in her initial e-mail Tuesday. "We need to spread the word and get moving against the current school board. They are doing nothing but destroying the southern end of the county and the programs that have worked here. Let's band together and fight this thing before it is a quiet done deal."
In a phone interview with The Pilot Wednesday, Purser said she has never heard board members discuss eliminating the K-5 program, which has been a popular choice for many Moore County families.
"I have heard zero conversation among the board about eliminating the year-round program," she said. "I have not heard a single comment by a board member indicating interest in eliminating the year-round program."
Garner said by phone Thursday that her e-mails were prompted by discussions she had heard around town about the future of year-round, specifically one that a school board member allegedly had said that the programs at Southern Pines Primary and Southern Pines Elementary would be discontinued due to rising utility costs.
"It just kept getting talked about," she said. "I became extremely concerned. I'm just a big fan of choices for parents and choices for students."
She said in an e-mail Wednesday after the "Connect-ED" message was sent out that while she was "thrilled" to learn there were no plans to get rid of the program, she said she stood by her e-mails and cautioned parents to be vigilant.
"I imagine the board and central office got a lot of calls and e-mails today, and that is never a bad thing," she said in the e-mail. "You should feel free to share your feelings, express your concerns, or simply contact your representatives on the board to show your support for a program."
Thursday Garner said that she still had some concerns.
"I'm very appreciative of the Connect-ED message," she said. "I still have a fair amount of concern. I do believe that I relied on good information."
Board Chairwoman Kathy Farren said that she has never heard any of her colleagues on the board indicate interest in eliminating the program.
"No one has ever said to me that we should do away with the year-round program," she said by phone Thursday, adding that most of the comments the board receives advocate expansion of year-round classes, which she said the board would be open to if there was enough interest.
Garner's e-mails were particularly critical of board member Bruce Cunningham, whom she claimed was "leading the fight" against year-round.
Cunningham denied Garner's accusations and reiterated Farren's comments by phone Thursday.
"I have been a long-time supporter of the year-round program and have seen the benefits of it with my own child," he said. "There have been no discussions by the board of doing away with the year-round program."
Board member Charles Lambert also responded to Garner directly by e-mail.
"Whether it be in board meetings and/or casual conversations with other board members, I can not recall at any time that we have considered eliminating the year-round programs," he said. "I think the Board of Education responsible for the creation of the program (including you) did a great service to the parents and community of Moore County. I, for one, am in support of the programs and will continue hopefully to expand this service to other children."
Southern Pines Primary and Southern Pines Elementary offer both traditional and year-round calendars, while Academy Heights Elementary is exclusively a year-round school.
The year-round schedule is divided into nine-week quarters with three-week breaks (inter-sessions) at the end of each quarter. Students are in class the same number of days as their counterparts in traditional schools.
The basic instructional program is the same at year-round and traditional schools. The year-round schedule is coordinated with the traditional schedule so that they share holidays and the school year ends at the same time.
"We are proud to be able to offer this option for our families and look forward to its continued success," Purser said.
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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