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WCPSS approves day off for Muslim holiday, asks county for $5M to address bus issues

March 20, 2019 GMT

The Wake County school board on Tuesday night approved a day off for students to coincide with the start of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr.

While approving the district calendars for the 2020-2021 school year, school officials voted to place a teacher work day on May 13, 2021, to coincide with the beginning of the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

In an additional measure Wake County school officials asked county commissioners to release $5 million from the reserve budget to help address transportation issues.

School officials said Tuesday that International bus models from 2003, 2004 and 2010 have been experiencing diesel engine failure issues. The school district has roughly 300 International model school buses on the road, and 50 of them will need repairs this year.

A school spokesperson said $1.4 million of the $5 million request would come out of the contingency fund to make necessary repairs to the buses with engine issues. The rest of the money would help fund contracts for vendors providing transportation for special needs students.

“There’s been tension between the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners over the years regarding that fund balance, so right now, we effectively have no fund balance,” school board Chairman Jim Martin said. “The commissioners told us that, when we had issues that otherwise would be addressed by that fund balance, we needed to go to the commissioners, so this is an example of that.”

Costs for bus replacement have previously been covered by the state through grants, but officials said the money was not in the state budget this year.

Wake County is not the only Triangle district experiencing issues with bus engine failure.

A Cumberland County Schools spokesman said Tuesday that that district has 27 buses affected, including two that have experienced total engine failure. The Department of Public Instruction will be replacing the two buses with engine failure this year, the spokesman said.

The Wake County school board on Tuesday night voted to approve new start times for several schools, and that may just be the beginning.

District officials were forced to make several decisions regarding bell scheduled because of limited resources and a lack of bus drivers.

The approved changes are as follows:

School board members admit the start times for Wake County schools aren’t ideal, and they are looking into making further changes in the future.

“We would love to have every school between 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock, that would be phenomenal,” Martin said. “The challenge is that would require us increasing our transportation fleet again, maybe doubling it.”

For now, the board has requested a study to see what it would like like for elementary schools and high schools to flip start times, mimicking a system recently implemented by Durham Public Schools.