The Wake County school system has changed the way it will handle new requests for volunteers the rest of the school year.
Instead of reopening the volunteer registration system for a week in December and a week in the spring, principals have been told they can register volunteers on Mondays through April 25. The three exceptions are Dec. 20, Dec. 27 and Jan. 17.
You'll need to ask the principal, or the person's designated representative, to sign up if you haven't yet done so yet. At this point, 35,392 people have registered to be volunteers this school year.
Due to the financial cost of running criminal records checks on all volunteers, school administrators shut down the registration system on Oct. 8. At $4.25 per report, it has cost Wake more than $140,000 as of Oct. 19 to do the checks.
Stephen Gainey, assistant superintendent for human resource, told school board members on Oct. 19 that they decided to run background checks on all volunteers for safety reasons. Previously, criminal checks were limited to people who had unsupervised contacts with students,
"We're balancing the safety of kids in relation to volunteers, the availability of resources and what I have enjoyed and what everybody else in Wake County has enjoyed, which is tremendous volunteer support for this school system," Gainey told board members. "it does hit me right in the gut pretty hard to have slowed it down like that. We didn't stop it but we had to have some controls."
Gainey said the background checks have found criminal records on volunteers who didn't report them when they registered.
But Gainey said that they won't have to conduct checks on everyone each year because the new system runs nightly criminal records checks on active volunteers.
In the future, school board member John Tedesco suggested to Gainey that Wake seek grants to cover the costs of the record checks.
Shutting down the system allowed the company hired by Wake to clear a backlog that had prevented thousands of volunteers from getting clearance to work at schools.