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Staggered Sessions Rejected : Year-Round School Plan Expands

February 27, 1986|ELAINE WOO | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles school board's plan to relieve overcrowding has both a bright and a dark side for Southeast-area parents.

On Monday the board ended months of tedious study and considerable debate when it voted to switch more schools to year-round operation. Ninety-three year-round facilities already exist in predominantly Asian and Latino communities in the district's southeastern, eastern and east San Fernando Valley regions.

Combined with other solutions--namely, more portable classrooms, reopening closed campuses and a change in the district's integration formula to create additional seats for minority youngsters at integrated schools--the year-round plan will ensure that the district will have enough space for the approximately 32,000 additional students expected to enroll this year and in 1987.

The good news for Southeast parents is that the board approved those solutions after soundly rejecting a separate proposal that was, according to Larry Gonzalez, the East Los Angeles and Southeast-area board member, a "proven disaster."

That proposal would have dealt with overcrowding by instituting staggered sessions, a method of dividing the student body into groups that start and finish school at different times, beginning as early as 7 a.m. and ending as late as 5:30 p.m.

According to school administrators who dealt with the staggered schedule when it was tried in Southeast high schools in the late 1970s--and who testified at a board hearing earlier this month--the staggered schedule caused high truancy and absenteeism, supervision problems and overcrowded conditions at midday when the sessions overlapped.

Turning down that approach was "the only intelligent route the board could take," said Willene Cooper of the Legislative Committee on School Overcrowding, composed of community leaders and elected officials from South Gate, Bell, Huntington Park, Cudahy and Maywood. "We know the consequences of that move, and they were totally bad."

The bad news for Southeast parents was the board's agreement that the enrollment at present year-round schools should be reduced so that the campuses are filled to only 95% of capacity. This change, urged by Hollywood and Central City representative Jackie Goldberg, would allow overcrowded campuses to abandon makeshift classrooms set up in auditoriums, cafeterias and teacher lounges, thereby decreasing the density. But, according to a district staff estimate, the new policy, which probably will be implemented by the 1988-89 school year, will result in the displacement of approximately 7,000 students who will have to ride buses to other campuses.

"I hope my children don't have to be transferred," said Christina Amaya, a Maywood mother of three school-age children. Aware that thousands of Southeast schoolchildren already endure long bus rides, many going to San Fernando Valley campuses, she said it causes a hardship for parents, especially when they are called to school to pick up a sick child.

Pat Quiles, a member of the Bell High School advisory council, said he hoped that the board's decision to expand year-round schooling does not lessen efforts to build new schools. Five new Southeast-area schools are in planning stages, but state funding requirements have caused delays. District officials predict that it will take three to five years to complete construction and, at the current growth rate, those schools will be filled as soon as they open.

"If we have to have (more year-round schools) now, fine," Quiles said. "But you can't get around the fact that schools have to be built. We have to keep pressing for that."

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