Parents unhappy over proposals to increase year-round schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District protested Wednesday as Supt. Leonard Britton arrived for a tour of Castlebay Lane Elementary School in Northridge.
Britton and other district officials were met at the school by about 30 parents carrying picket signs and chanting, "No year-round schools." Britton had been invited to Castlebay by parents who do not want the school year changed.
Castlebay is one of about 150 San Fernando Valley schools that may switch from a September-through-June schedule to a 12-month calendar, under which students take short vacations throughout the year. The Los Angeles Board of Education will take up the issue next week.
"The district wants to spread this cancer all over the Valley and all over the school system," said Grace McMillen, one of the parents walking the picket line. "We don't think it's fair to impose year-round on us."
Summer Heat Noted
Parents based their protest on summer temperatures that climb above 100 degrees making it difficult for students to study. Castlebay is air-conditioned, but parents said the cooling system is unreliable and breaks down often.
Parents also complained that lack of adequate day-care facilities in the neighborhood make it difficult to find activities and baby sitters for children on vacation at other times of the year.
Increasing the number of year-round schools is one method some district officials believe will create space in neighborhood schools that have reached capacity and stopped accepting more students.
Valley parents say they are sympathetic to the district's crowding problems but believe there are other ways to solve the classroom shortage.
"Put more bungalows on our campus, bring more kids here," McMillen said. "Open the 23 schools that were closed. That's easier than turning the whole system topsy-turvy."
Nestled in the hills of Porter Ranch, Castlebay has 630 students. As in many other West Valley schools, those from crowded schools are bused to the campus.
This year about 75 youngsters from three East Valley schools are enrolled at Castlebay, and eight portable classrooms have been installed to meet the demand.
"We got more students, but we didn't get any new bathrooms, no new office personnel, and other support services haven't been increased," complained Barbara Foster, a former president of the Castlebay parents' organization.
Look at Alternatives
Throughout the morning tour, Britton listened, took notes and said little. When he became superintendent in July, Britton said he was against year-round schedules. He has said since that he is "60% convinced" that the system has merits.
However, Britton has not publicly said he favors 12-month schedules.
Allowing that it is difficult for people to understand why one school is changed and another isn't, Britton said: "We have to look at as many alternatives as possible--reopening closed schools, installing more portable classrooms. The sequence of events is important."
Julie Korenstein, who represents the West Valley on the Board of Education, also toured Castlebay. Last spring, during her campaign, Korenstein said she was against increasing year-round schools.
"I haven't changed my position," Korenstein said Wednesday. "I've only been on the board for three months, but I haven't seen anything to change my mind . . . ."