LONG BEACH — The Board of Education has received the go-ahead for year-round operation of up to four elementary schools, setting the stage for formal approval of the plan as early as next week.
"I get the impression that there is a lot of (support) in the community for year-round schools," James P. Zarifes, board vice president, said at this week's board meeting. The board heard presentations by representatives of the four schools that had been asked to conduct feasibility studies on year-round operation. "There seems to be a lot of positive feelings toward it," he added.
The four schools are Lee, Burbank, Willard and Stevenson. All are within a 1 1/2-mile radius of Pacific Coast Highway in the south-central part of the city. Although the schools have slightly higher than average minority enrollments, according to Deputy Supt. Charles Carpenter, they are "nearly racially balanced, with a substantial percentage of white students."
A fifth school--Mark Twain, in the more affluent Lakewood Village area near Long Beach City College--was dropped from the plan last spring after parents there expressed opposition.
Parents and staff members of the four target schools, however, expressed generally positive assessments of year-round operation in their reports to the board this week.
"The advantages outweigh the disadvantages," said Jane Crase, a parent at Willard. "We feel that if parents try it, they'll like it."
Most parents, said Lee Principal Bobby Robertson, do not want their children bused to other schools. "By increasing our (capacity) we can keep all of our students, while without going year-round we would have to bus away three classes of third-graders next year," he said.
District officials have proposed year-round operation as one way of dealing with overcrowded conditions in the 66,000-student district, which is growing at a rate of 1,200 students a year. They estimate that the plan--under which rotating students would attend class for 60 days, followed by 20 days of vacation--will increase total capacity by about 25% in each participating school.
"I was pleased at the positive response," Carpenter said after hearing Monday's presentations.
The presenters, however, expressed concerns regarding the proposed plan. Among them are the availability of child care during periods when students are not in school; the effect on traditional family vacation patterns; the availability of enough administrators and counselors to handle additional students, and adequate, locked storage for teachers' classroom supplies during periods when they are on vacation.
Another major concern is the lack of air conditioning in the schools during the summer when they have traditionally been closed. Supt. E. Tom Giugni said he has no ready solution to that problem. Citing cost estimates of $400,000 per school, Giugni said it is unlikely that air conditioning would be installed.
Other costs associated with year-round operation, according to Kathy Clark, a program specialist for integration planning and coordinator of the year-round feasibility studies, are $80,000 annually per school for additional personnel and a one-time cost of $45,000 for storage facilities.
Clark said, however, that these would likely be offset after the first year by an estimated $340,000 annually in increased state funding based on average daily attendance, special state incentives for districts operating year-round programs and reductions in the amount of busing required to relieve school overcrowding.
"By the second year we expect it to be a wash," Clark said.
Carpenter said he hoped to return to the board on Monday with a recommendation that will probably call for all four target schools to begin year-round operation next July.