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Survey Set on Year-Round School Plan

November 27, 1986|KAREN ROEBUCK | Times Staff Writer

A majority of the Redondo Beach City School District board supports a voluntary year-round program that could start next school year, but a survey will be mailed to all district parents to gauge interest before the board votes on the concept.

Parents will receive a brochure on the idea before Christmas and a questionnaire appraising their interest. The board probably will vote on a pilot program in mid-February so, if approved, it could start in September, 1987. The program would initially involve only students in kindergarten through sixth grade and probably only at one school, Supt. Nick G. Parras said.

Under the year-round plan, students would attend classes for 60 days and then have 20 days of vacation. All students in the program would have their breaks at the same time. "They will still go the same as a traditional school year, which is 180 days a year," Parras said.

1% Found in Opposition

School board Vice President Valerie Dombrowski said the parents and teachers she has talked with largely support a year-round school program and only 1% are opposed to it. "That 1% is probably the parent that won't change something in their life style to help the children," she said.

Supporters say the benefits would include more breaks from school and greater vacation flexibility for parents; better use of school facilities; better class work retention and less reorientation for students, and better student and teacher morale.

Arlene Staich said she sees advantages from three perspectives. She is a physics teacher at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, the mother of a sixth-grader and a 10th-grader, and president of the South Bay PTA Council, although she was not speaking on behalf of the council.

A Way to Ease Burnout

"As a teacher I would like to see it and as a parent I would like to see it. . . . I get burned out and I think students get burned out. I think this would be a little refreshing."

But supporters and opponents said the year-round program might cause additional after-school child-care problems and transportation difficulties for parents. Opponents also said that changing a child's environment might be disruptive to his education and that the student would no longer be able to participate in summer recreational programs.

The small cost that would be involved in changing principals and some secretaries from a 10-month to 12-month salary schedule will not be a factor in deciding whether to try the program, Parras said.

Others, however, believe that if the district would not save money, the change would not be justified.

"If it doesn't save money, it isn't worth doing," said Jefferson Elementary School PTA President Judy Swanson, who was not speaking for her group. "I'm not for it," said the mother of four. " . . . It's the American way to have summer."

Began Two Years Ago

Nearly two years ago, the school board appointed a committee to study the feasibility of a year-round program and determine parent and teacher interest. At the time, the board was hearing about the success other districts were having with year-round programs and wanted to give parents another option, officials said.

The Redondo Beach district now allows parents to enroll children at any of the district's 10 schools, although residents get priority for the school in their neighborhood.

Supporters of a year-round school program said one of the biggest obstacles they have faced has been getting parents to understand the concept. Officials also are quick to point out that parents would have the option of enrolling their children in the program or keeping them on the traditional, nine-month schedule with summers off.

Enrollment Has Declined

Unlike most districts in California where a year-round program has been implemented, Redondo Beach's purpose would not be to offset overcrowding problems, Parras said. District enrollment has decreased from 10,000 to 3,800 during the past 10 years, the superintendent said.

This year's kindergarten enrollment, however, increased to 460 students from 405 last year, he said. He does not expect enrollment to increase dramatically in the near future. The district has four former schools that are being used for other purposes or are in the process of being leased.

An enrollment of at least 200 kindergarten through sixth-grade students would be needed to justify trying the program, he said. Seventh- and eighth-graders would remain on the nine-month schedule.

Tom Kelleher, chairman of the year-round committee, said the committee will make its recommendation to the school board on the program after receiving parent and teacher comments.

Two Meetings Held

The committee recently held two public information meetings attended by about 250 people altogether, Parras said. Nearly 70% of the parents and teachers attending indicated that they might be interested in the program and about 10% said they definitely would not, he said.

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