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Inglewood to Test All-Year Elementary School Program

May 01, 1986|MICHELE L. NORRIS | Times Staff Writer

INGLEWOOD — Under pressure to find space for a student population expected to increase by 15% in the next two years, the school district has decided to experiment with a year-round system at William H. Kelso Elementary School, beginning in the fall.

If the year-round program is successful at Kelso, one of the district's most cramped schools, other overcrowded campuses such as Beulah Payne, W. Claude Hudnall and Oak Street elementary schools also may switch to an all-year curriculum, district officials said.

District officials chose Kelso for the year-round pilot program because it is closest to the Carlton Square residential development, which could feed the school with up to 100 new students in the next two years. Kelso's enrollment is already 13% over the state standard.

The year-round plan will ease crowding and permit enrollment growth because about 200 students will always be out on vacation, Supt. Rex Fortune said.

In approving the pilot program by a 4-1 vote Monday, the school board followed the recommendation of a task force made up of parents, teachers, administrators and other district employees. After studying year-round programs in four school districts, the task force concluded that year-round classes could solve the district's overcrowding problems without adversely affecting student achievement, said Michael Davis, a parent representative on the panel.

Proponents of the year-round system said the new curriculum could benefit low achievers and bilingual students. "Our research indicates that children with limited English proficiency will have less slippage on a year-round system, where they are out for shorter periods of time," Fortune said.

Under the year-round plan, students will be divided into several groups with separate vacation schedules. Each group of students and teachers will have between two and six vacation periods during the year, depending on what system is adopted.

"The year-round school system appears to be the second-best alternative to reduce overcrowding in our district," Fortune said. "The best answer, of course, would be to build a new school, but that's a three- to five-year proposition. We can't wait that long."

The district, which now has 15,618 students, is growing because of rapid residential development and an influx of families moving into apartments that once housed single residents.

A 15% rise in enrollment since 1982, and a projected 15% increase by 1988, have put pressure on district officials to find alternative ways to use existing facilities or open temporary ones while they jockey for state funds to build a new school.

Overcrowding in half of the district's 14 elementary schools forced officials to open an emergency school for 106 kindergarten and first-grade students at a local church hall last October. The so-called K-1 school, which will operate for at least one more year, has been termed a success by the school board. However, most district officials, including a board majority, would rather see students at existing schools in a year-round system than in additional temporary schools.

Details of the year-round plan are still sketchy while Kelso Principal Marjorie Thompson meets with the task force and district officials to draw up a staggered vacation and academic schedule.

Lone Opposing Vote

Board member Caroline Coleman, who cast the lone vote against the year-round plan, said the staggered schedule could play havoc with parents' work and vacation schedules.

"Inglewood is a working-class community," said Coleman, who recalled strong parent opposition to a similar proposal in 1978. "Parents are going to have to find baby sitters or find daytime activities for their children for three, four, five little vacations. This schedule could really hurt the single parent."

In 1978, district officials solved overcrowding by redrawing school boundaries, but now several neighboring schools are overcrowded and redistricting would not help, officials say.

Combat Overcrowding

Coleman suggested that the district combat overcrowding by finding and removing all students who live outside the district but use false addresses to attend Inglewood schools.

"We conducted a study earlier this year and found out there were hundreds of children attending our schools illegally," Coleman said. "I don't think year-round schools are necessary if we got rid of those students."

District officials, however, said students who illegally attend Inglewood's schools make up only a small portion of the elementary enrollment where the overcrowding is most evident.

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