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All-Year Classes : Board Approves 12-Month Schedule at 16 Elementary Schools

December 09, 1987|DAVID SMOLLAR | Times Staff Writer

Year-round schedules will begin in July for 16 overcrowded elementary schools in San Diego, the Board of Education decided Tuesday. Under the system, three groups of students will attend school at any one time while a fourth group is on a three-week vacation.

The board, after three weeks of lengthy discussions and public hearings, deleted two schools, Encanto and Sherman, from the list proposed by city schools Supt. Tom Payzant because of concerns about how special academic programs at those schools would fare under a complex year-round program.

Under the list adopted as part of the board's long-range facilities master plan, the following schools will be placed on multitrack year-round beginning in July 1988: Baker, Balboa, Bethune, Boone, Emerson, Ericson, Euclid, Hamilton, Horton, Knox, Mason, Paradise Hills, Penn, Valencia Park, Walker and Zamorano. The schools are in the city's two most rapidly growing residential areas, the Southeast and Paradise Hills areas and the Scripps Ranch and Mira Mesa areas.

Year-round scheduling is designed to expand capacity without building new schools. All students are placed on one of four nine-week attendance tracks, with three tracks in schools at any one time. For example, a school with 1,000 students on campus at the same time under the traditional nine-month system will drop its daily enrollment to 750.

One-Fourth More Students

The move allows a campus to accommodate one-fourth more students without more crowding of playgrounds, cafeterias and classrooms. District financial projections show that without multitrack, 21 new elementary schools would be needed by the year 2000 at a cost of more than $360 million. The district has no way of raising that large an amount, officials say.

Two elementary schools already are on year-round multitrack: Jerabek in Scripps Ranch, where the system started in June, and Brooklyn near downtown, now in its second year. Both schools have reported widespread acceptance of the system by parents after initial fears that children of the same family would not be placed on the same tracks. (There are 18 other elementary schools out of the district's 107 that are on single track year-round. Those schools switched voluntarily to year-round as a result of neighborhood desires to test the benefits of a continuous education schedule, not for reasons of overcrowding. With the decision Tuesday, about 32% of the San Diego Unified elementary schools will be on year-round schedules.)

Concern for Magnet Programs

The concerns of board members that led to the deletion of Encanto and Sherman centered on the effect of multitrack on magnet schools, which are a key element of the district's voluntary integration program. Eight of the schools targeted for multitrack are magnet schools with predominantly minority-student enrollments that offer special enrichment programs to attract white pupils who voluntarily ride buses across town to attend. Most of the schools are what the district calls total magnets; that is, the programs are offered to all students at the school, such as the fine arts program at Zamorano or the foreign language immersion magnets at Knox and Horton.

But Encanto has a variety of special math and science programs as well as Spanish bilingual and gifted programs that only a portion of students take. And teachers and parents at Encanto, especially white parents choosing to integrate their children at the school, successfully convinced board members that the magnet would suffer because not all programs could be offered across all four attendance tracks under the year-round plan.

"I think a greater threat than the overcrowding at Encanto (1,400 students, the district's largest elementary school) would be the dismantling of magnet programs," board member Dorothy Smith said in making the motion to exempt Encanto until officials can show that multitrack would not result in diminished program quality and less integration.

Her motion passed 4-1, with Jim Roache dissenting. Roache argued that the concerns at Encanto apply to some degree at all magnet schools.

'Inherent Risk'

"There is an inherent risk in trying multitrack at any magnet," Roache said. "We all understand that there could be adverse consequences (to programs and integration) and that we may have to reassess at a later date whether multitrack can work in magnets.

"But I think at this point, it is presumptuous to prejudge. . . . Let's see if it works (at Encanto and elsewhere)."

Multitrack at Sherman was delayed for one year on a unanimous vote because the school is also beginning an academic magnet program next year. The board believed it would be unfair to force Sherman administrators and students to undertake both multitrack and a new magnet at the same time. The school is already a year-round, single-track facility.

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