Maneuvering Through Wake County Schools – Part 1: Understanding Calendar Options

Real Estate Agent with Carolina MaxRealty, Inc.

This is part 1 of a series of blogs about my personal journey as my rising kindergartener prepares to enter the Wake County Public Schools System.

Although I’ve lived in Wake County for almost a decade now I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the school system at one point. My attitude was I pay taxes, schools are being built, there are buses, kids are getting on and off, the system is working. After my daughter was born in 2005 I became a little more aware.

"OK, that’s an elementary school."

"Hmmm , he’s running for the school board."

But one day, about a year ago while I was pregnant with our son (and probably overcome with hormones) I panicked. I realized that my little girl was going to be in kindergarten soon! I had to get up to speed. Some of the information I got, be it from the internet or friends who have children in the system, was overwhelming and a bit confusing. I want to share my experiences to help others.  Let's learn together!!

The Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) has 157 public schools.  They have a pretty decent website ( that explains just about everything you'd want to know. However I’ll give you the short-attention-span version.

WCPSS has several calendar options due largely to our diverse and rapid population growth. Get used to hear the following terms:

• Traditional: This is – well traditional school. Start in August. End in June. Long hot summer. Holidays in the middle.  Your typical school year calendar. This is probably what you experienced growing up and what most people consider “normal”. Here is a traditional school calendar for 2010-11.

• Magnet: These are schools that have a curriculum focus. There are magnet programs for gifted and talented students, creative arts, Spanish, engineering, and international studies just to name a few.  Magnet schools follow a traditional calendar.  Click here for more information about magnet schools and here for a list of schools.

• Multi-track year-round: WCPSS operates 49 schools in 45 weekdays on/15 weekdays off cycles throughout the calendar year. Therefore students could be in school all summer and on break during October. The purpose of year-round is to utilize schools throughout the year and ease overcrowding and avoid (or ease) the cost of constructing new schools. When people refer to year-round schools this is most often what they’re talking about.  Here is a year-round calendar for 2010-11.

• Tracks: Those 45 days in/15 days off cycles on a year-round calendar. There are four total. At any given time (with the exception of holidays) three tracks are in session. You will often hear a person say that they are “tracked-out”. This means their particular cycle, or “track”, is on their 15 day break. The tracks are simply labeled 1, 2, 3 and 4.

• Modified year-round: I won’t lie to you, I don’t get this one. It’s like year-round since it operates on a 45 in/15 out cycle but because there’s only one track the facilities aren’t utilized during track out. So what's the point?  Why not be traditional?  But I digress. There aren’t many modified year-round schools.  Here is a modified year-round calendar for 2010-11.

Next time I’ll discuss how to determine which school your child is assigned to. Don't assume that you're assigned to the school down the street…

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