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All L.A. Schools to Be Year-Long : Decision by Board, Effective in 1989, Promises Radical Changes

October 13, 1987|ELAINE WOO | Times Education Writer

The Los Angeles school board voted Monday to place all 618 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District on year-round operation beginning in July, 1989, a decision that promises radical changes in the way the school year--and vacation time--are organized for hundreds of thousands of students and their families.

The action, adopted in a 4-3 vote, capped several years of emotional debate over how best to deal with the problem of school overcrowding, and was reached despite the release Monday of fall enrollment figures that were far below district projections for the 1987-88 school year.

The district, which has gained more than 20,000 new students since 1985, expected an additional 14,000 to enroll this year. But, according to a report based on figures gathered during the third week of the fall term, fewer than 2,000 new students were in school. Officials attributed the small number mainly to fears in the district's many Latino neighborhoods over the new immigration law.

3 New Schools on List

As a first step in its year-round plan, the board also agreed, by a 4-3 vote, to convert 14 severely overcrowded elementary schools to year-round operation next year and place three schools now under construction on the schedule, in order to prevent pupils from being bused away from their neighborhoods to schools with more classroom space.

One-quarter of the district's 592,000 students attend 85 schools already on year-round schedules.

A task force of parents, students, teachers, administrators and representatives of community service agencies and private industry will be formed to study year-round calendars and recommend a schedule to be used by all grade levels. Supt. Leonard Britton said he expects to propose guidelines for the task force within a week.

Under a year-round schedule, a campus can accommodate more students than under a traditional calendar because it provides a system of alternating groups of students throughout the year. Year-round students attend school the same amount of time as their counterparts in regular-schedule schools, but vacation breaks are interspersed throughout the year instead of concentrated in the summer. Students in the most overcrowded schools would attend school during the summer.

Praised as Equitable

The four board members who voted in favor of the year-round program praised it as an equitable districtwide solution to overcrowding. But at least one dissenter, Roberta Weintraub, condemned the action, predicting that it could trigger a mass exodus of middle-class students to private schools.

"This is one of the worst possible decisions this district could make," said Weintraub, who represents the East San Fernando Valley. "We won't have to worry about overcrowding because there will be . . . a massive pullout of middle-class parents from this district. This situation is really intolerable."

Jackie Goldberg, who supported the action, said, "I'm not ecstatic about it, but I'm happy. It's a step toward having one district, instead of two," she added, alluding to the board's reluctance in the past to expand the district's year-round system into non-minority neighborhoods on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley.

Goldberg, whose Hollywood-Wilshire Corridor area includes some of the most crowded campuses in the city, said the action will begin to erase what she called a "containment policy" that already has placed a quarter of the district's students on year-round schedules.

The 85 schools on year-round programs are located in predominantly Latino and Asian neighborhoods along the Wilshire Corridor, in the central city, the East San Fernando Valley and the district's southeast region, where a high birth rate and increased immigration have placed a strain on the available classroom space.

During recent public hearings, several hundred parents, mostly from Anglo neighborhoods on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley, railed against the year-round proposal, threatening to send their children to private schools if the system is expanded into their areas.

But Board President Rita Walters, who represents South-Central and Southwest Los Angeles, said, "We cannot operate a district based on threats." She provided the fourth vote needed to pass the all-year proposal.

Walters suggested that she would have preferred to make the change effective for all schools next year.

"This piecemeal business is unfair," she said. "We were supposed to phase in year-round schools over five years, beginning in 1985. Now it's 1987, and we're still proceeding in this piecemeal fashion."

In addition to Goldberg and Walters, Harbor-area board member Warren Furutani and Eastside member Leticia Quezada voted for the year-round schedule. Opposing it with Weintraub were West San Fernando Valley representative Julie Korenstein and Westside board member Alan Gershman.

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