South Bay parents with children enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District, like parents in other areas of the giant system, are awaiting a decision Monday on whether their campuses will be converted to a year-round calendar.
"Everybody is talking about it," said Ruth Cuccia, who has a child at White Point Elementary School in San Pedro. "It's a hot topic whenever two or more parents get together."
For district trustees, a major concern is whether an expansion of the year-round system--already in effect in 83 schools--is the best way to alleviate a worsening shortage of classroom seats in some areas of the district.
For South Bay parents, the first concern is how a conversion would affect their children, families and neighborhoods, Cuccia and others said. They wonder whether preschools, the YMCA and other child-care providers could adapt to a changed school schedule.
They wonder whether families with two or more children could ever get together for vacations if the children attend school on different schedules. And they wonder how their schools and neighborhoods may change as the district buses in more children from crowded inner-city schools to fill the additional classroom space created by the year-round system.
South Bay schools in the Los Angeles district would be affected by two of several proposals that the board will review Monday. In the most far-reaching plan, all elementary schools would convert to year-round and 32 would be placed on a "multitrack" system. Students in multitrack schools are divided into separate groups that attend classes on different schedules over the lengthened school year.
The 32 schools include Leland Street, Taper Avenue and 7th Street in San Pedro, which are designated as receivers of bused-in youngsters from overcrowded schools, and Fries Avenue and Gulf Avenue in Wilmington, which are classified as overcrowded schools.
The three San Pedro schools also would be on multitrack schedules under another proposal that calls for converting Dana Junior High and its feeder schools to a "single-track" year-round system. The feeder schools are White Point, South Shores, Pt. Fermin, 15th Street, Cabrillo Avenue, Barton Hill and Bandini Street.
In the single-track system, all students attend classes and are on vacation at the same time, with shorter summer breaks and longer breaks at other times of the year. The single-track system does not provide more classroom space, but students get used to the year-round schedule in case they ever have to go to a multitrack system, and it keeps them in sync with nearby schools, officials say.
"The district says everything will work out all right," said Cuccia, who was PTA president at White Point last year. "But we want them to give us some convincing proof before they make these changes."
In brochures and public meetings, district officials say that "every effort" will be made to place siblings on the same school and vacation schedule. And as more schools convert, the officials say, child-care agencies and city recreation agencies will be encouraged to provide services year-round.
Kathy Cates, another San Pedro parent, said the proposal to include South Bay schools in the year-round plan increases public resentment against "a school district that is just too big and overgrown to be sensitive to our needs."
She said a petition will be presented to the board on Monday, urging the trustees to vote against an expansion of the year-round system.
"The district's main business seems to be housing, not educating," Cates said. "We don't have an overcrowding problem here, but they will give us one if we let them."
If year-round schools "are forced on us," Cates said, she will consider joining an effort to form a new district composed of schools in San Pedro, Harbor City and Lomita.
Another alternative, she said, is to ask the Palos Verdes Peninsula district to annex San Pedro's schools. Bill Rivera, a district spokesman, said a secession effort has little chance of success. San Pedro is a part of Los Angeles, he said, and under state law it would have to become an independent city before a new school district could be formed there.
Earlier this year, the City of Lomita abandoned a two-year effort to break away from the Los Angeles district. The Los Angeles district also serves the cities of Gardena and Carson in the South Bay.
Julie Hawkins, a former teacher with a child in the Seventh Street school, said she is concerned that the quality of education will deteriorate under the year-round schedule.
She cited the Quinlan Report, a recent analysis by the state Department of Education, which she said shows that children in year-round schools statewide have poor test scores when contrasted with those on the traditional calendar.
Rivera, the district spokesman, said the report uses "very soft data" and does not contradict the district's position that the quality of education is the same in both systems.