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L.B. Plan to Study Year-Round Schools Stymied

June 11, 1987|DAVID HALDANE | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — The school board overruled its own staff this week by rejecting a list of schools to be studied for possible conversion to year-round classes.

The board sent the entire list back to the staff because it included Mark Twain Elementary School.

"A study involving a school where there is an enormous amount of opposition would be a waste of time," said board member Elizabeth Wallace, who joined Arlene Solomon and James Zarifes in voting down the recommendations.

Said board President John Kashiwabara, who did not vote: "We request the staff to go back to the drawing board."

The only vote in favor of the list came from Harriet Williams, who said that Mark Twain Elementary--in the middle-class Lakewood Village area near Long Beach City College--should be included to balance the six largely minority central-city schools that make up the rest of the list.

Staff Confused

Although board members said they were still committed to year-round schools, their action at Monday night's meeting seemed to leave some staff members confused about how the idea will be implemented.

The action came after several community and school board meetings at which Twain parents had expressed overwhelming opposition to year-round operation of their school.

Citing problems such as lack of child care during short-term winter breaks and disruption of family patterns set during traditional summer vacations, the parents recently presented the board with a petition opposing year-round operation. It had more than 400 signatures, which they said represented nearly half of the school's enrollment.

"If you want Twain parents (to cooperate), you have to show them other successes (with year-round operation) in Long Beach," said parent Karen Moore. Twain parents have posed the only firm, organized opposition to the plan. "If there are volunteer (schools), go with them first," she said.

Other schools being considered for year-round operation are Burbank, Burnett, Lafayette, Lee, Stevenson and Willard elementary schools.

Feasibility Studies

Board members had originally said they would approve this week a list of schools to conduct feasibility studies. The studies would be done this summer, they said, followed by the designation in October of two or more schools that would actually switch to year-round operation beginning in the fall of 1988.

District officials have long advocated year-round operation--which they say can boost a school's capacity by 25% to 30%--as one solution to overcrowding in the district, which is growing by 1,500 students a year. After demonstrating its feasibility in a few schools, officials have said, they hope year-round operation will be adopted by the whole district.

Monday night's unexpected board action, however, clearly left some doubt.

"Does this mean that you want us to consider other options?" asked Supt. E. Tom Giugni, apparently confused by the turn of events.

'Need Support'

"(All I'm saying is that) based on the only available evidence, the parents at this school are overwhelmingly opposed and I was heavily influenced by that," said Zarifes. "You need the support of the parents when you go into an experimental program."

Added Solomon: "I'm not sure we have adequately explored the possibility of schools that might volunteer for year-round."

After some discussion, the board instructed its staff to find out which elementary schools, if any, would be willing to volunteer for year-round operation. The staff was asked to return in two weeks with a new list of candidate schools that may or may not include those on the old list.

"Does this mean that Twain is off the hook?" asked parent Jim Evers.

"Yes," said Zarifes.

"For today," said Solomon.

Reaction Mixed

Reaction among the Twain parents, however, was decidedly mixed. "I think it's nice that (we) were heard," Evers said after the meeting. "I don't classify it as a victory--I think it's the democratic process."

Others were more skeptical.

"They just put us on hold," said Julie Howes. "We could end up in the same position two weeks from now."

Added Connie Pracht: "What they've done is dragged this thing along to our disadvantage. They've pacified us."

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