Inglewood to Develop Year-Round School Plan

December 12, 1985|MICHELE L. NORRIS | Times Staff Writer

INGLEWOOD — Faced with overcrowded classrooms in half of its elementary schools, the Inglewood school trustees decided this week to study a year-round school system for one or more schools.

District officials say the new system could begin as early as next summer.

In a 3-2 vote, the board agreed with Supt. Rex Fortune's proposal to develop a detailed year-round plan by early next year, when the board will make a final decision.

A 15% jump in enrollment since 1982 and another 15% increase projected in the next two years have put pressure on the district to find short-term solutions to overcrowding while officials jockey for state money to build a school. The district, which currently has 15,618 students, is growing because of residential development and an increased birthrate in the city.

'Do Something Fast'

"We have to do something fast, since it could be another three years before we get relief from Sacramento," said board member Rose Mary Benjamin.

Libraries, lunchrooms, auditoriums and storage areas have been converted into classrooms in several Inglewood elementary schools. Some traditional classrooms have been divided in half, and portable buildings have been brought to most of the district's campuses, reducing playground space.

More than half of Inglewood's 14 elementary schools exceed the state standard of 30 students per class, prompting the state Board of Education to fine the district $150,000 last year for overcrowding. At the district's request, the state agreed to waive the penalty while district officials created more classroom seats, Fortune said.

A stiffer fine could be levied and withheld from state funding for the 1987-88 school year if classroom sizes are not reduced, he said.

The year-round system appears to be an "effective short-term" measure to reduce class size, he said.

Details Sketchy

Details of the year-round proposal remain sketchy while district officials decide which schools will make the switch. Topping the list of eligible schools are Beulah Payne, W. Claude Hudnall, William H. Kelso and Oak Street elementary schools--all operating at more than 100% capacity.

Overcrowding at these four campuses forced the school board to open an emergency school for 106 kindergarten and first-grade students at a local church hall in October.

Though the school board deemed the community school a success at its Monday night meeting, most trustees said they would prefer to keep students at existing schools in a year-round system rather than opening more temporary schools.

Under the year-round plan, students would be divided into several groups with different vacation schedules. Each group would have between two and four vacation periods during the year.

Create Seats

The year-round operation could create hundreds of new classroom seats, since one group would always be on vacation, officials said.

But two board members fear the year-round plan could also create problems.

William (Tony) Draper, one of two board members to vote against the year-round proposal, said the varied vacation schedule could injure the district's Project Hope truancy center.

The center at Grevillea Avenue and Locust Street holds special classes for students who have been suspended from their regular classes or who have been picked up by police for truancy.

"With our children on all these different vacation schedules, police won't know who's authorized to be on the street and who is actually cutting class," Draper said.

He said he would prefer capping enrollment at crowded schools and busing excess students to district schools that have vacant seats. The district currently buses only handicapped students; the rest walk to school.

Confuse Students

Caroline Coleman, who also voted against the year-round system, said it could confuse elementary school students forced to attend classes during the summer while their older brother and sisters stayed home on vacation.

"I think it will be difficult for a young child to get motivated for school when their big brothers and sisters are sleeping late and staying home while they go off to school," said Coleman, who said she would prefer setting up more temporary schools while awaiting state construction money.

"We also have to look at our parents' child-care needs," she said, pointing to strong parent opposition to a similar proposal in 1978. "Most of our families are one-parent or working families, and it is difficult for them to find child care or baby-sitting with on-again, off-again vacation periods."

Parents, however, showed little opposition to the year-round plan at Monday's school board meeting.

"I think we should review all the alternatives before firmly rejecting any proposal," said Zyra McCloud, president of the Inglewood Council PTA. McCloud said her group will decide whether to endorse a year-round system after the first of the year.

Los Angeles Times Articles