Los Angeles School Supt. Harry Handler said Friday that he has asked his staff to investigate some alternatives to a controversial proposal to put schools on a year-round schedule.
"Because of the questions being raised on these proposals, new ideas are being explored," Handler told 80 parents gathered at Birmingham High School for the Senior High Schools Division community meeting.
Last month, Handler outlined a far-reaching plan that would ease crowding in some schools and make way for an additional 70,000 students the Los Angeles Unified School District expects to enroll in the next five years.
Among the suggestions were phasing in a year-round schedule for all schools, reopening some West San Fernando Valley schools and increasing class sizes at predominantly minority schools, which now have smaller classes. Schools where 70% or more of the students are members of minorities are considered "racially isolated" and, by court order, must have smaller classes.
134,000 More Seats
These and other proposals would expand the district's capacity by more than 134,000 seats, Handler said.
Handler told the Valley parents that he has no plans to withdraw the year-round proposal or place it on hold in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision this week that cleared the way for the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People to reinitiate a desegregation suit against the district.
Because parts of Handler's 10-point proposal include changing ethnic ratios at district schools, some school board members have said they would be hesitant to proceed with any changes that might be construed as approving or increasing segregation.
However, Handler said that the Board of Education must decide soon what it wants to do to provide more classroom space.
Problem 'Not Going Away'
"We must move forward to address our housing problem because it's here, it's real and it is not going away," he said.
Handler's appearance at Birmingham High capped a week of Valley meetings about the year-round proposal at which parents asserted that the plan was ill-conceived.
"Summertime is a well-remembered part of your youth. If you think about it, you remember summer, not February," Steve Steinfeltd, who has a daughter attending Birmingham High, said at a parents' meeting Wednesday night at Winnetka Avenue School.
At the request of some parents, Handler said he has asked his staff to look into the possibility of having students stagger the time they start school. This would mean that some students would have their first class at 7 a.m., another group would start at 8 a.m. and others would begin at 9 a.m.
More Summer Vacations
However, Handler said that, even if staggered starting times proved workable, they probably would not increase the district's seating capacity as much as if the district went to a year-round system.
Handler said he has asked the district staff to come up with a plan that would alter current proposals for a year-round calendar so that more students could have a summer break.
There are two versions of a year-round calendar under consideration. One is a five-term school year in which students would attend for four 45-day quarters and have a 45-day vacation. Students would also have a three-week summer vacation, a two-week winter break and a two- or three-day spring break.
The other calendar is a four-term school year under which students would attend three 60-day quarters and have one 60-day vacation. They would also have an eight-day winter break and a three-day summer break.
Handler also said he may have his staff look into reinstating February graduations.
At one time the Los Angeles school district divided all classes into two groups, allowing some students to begin kindergarten in February instead of September. Those students then would graduate in the winter rather than in June, as is traditional.
The district did away with that plan in the late 1960s, district spokesman Bill Rivera said, as a way of saving money.