Advertisement

Plan Calls for Dramatic Shift in School Schedules : Education: District staff's proposals to relieve overcrowding call for 25 elementary schools on the Westside to change to year-round schedules or double sessions by July. Reception to the idea has been lukewarm.

December 17, 1989|BARBARA KOH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If the Los Angeles school district adopts the districtwide plan to relieve overcrowding recommended by its staff last week, it will mean a dramatic shift toward year-round schools and double sessions on the Westside starting next July.

About two dozen Westside elementary schools would be affected starting with the 1990-91 school year under the plan, which the school board will vote on after hearings next month.

The prospect of a shift to year-round calendars or double sessions is getting a lukewarm reception from Westside parents and educators.

The altered schedules will have an extensive ripple effect within and outside the school system. Air conditioning will have to be installed in most schools that lack it. Summer camp schedules will be disrupted. Families will have to adjust their vacation and child-care arrangements. The school district will need more staff, especially bilingual teachers and aides.

Still, many parents, teachers and administrators are concluding that there are few feasible alternatives.

The plan, unveiled Monday, aims to increase school capacity 23% in the Los Angeles Unified School District during the next three years. Enrollment this year shot up to 610,000, an increase of 15,000 students over last year. Almost 23,000 students board buses every day to get to school because their neighborhood schools are already full.

Most of the surge in enrollment is at the elementary grades, where the district "will be out of space . . . before the 1990-91 school year begins," according to the district staff report accompanying the proposals. By the fall of 1992, an additional 62,000 seats for elementary school students will be needed, the report says.

First targeted for change are 108 elementary schools--magnet schools, crowded traditional-year schools and schools that receive students from overcrowded campuses but still have extra classroom space. All of these schools, including 25 on the Westside, will switch to year-round or start double sessions next fall.

At the individual schools, teachers, school employees, parents and community members who serve on school councils will decide which methods to adopt to increase the schools' capacity.

All of the district's other elementary schools are expected to implement such changes in the 1991-92 or 1992-93 school years.

One of the recommendations by the district staff is to have schools on a year-round schedule with several tracks. Pupils would be divided into three or four groups, each with 90 classroom days followed by 30 vacation days. Because one group would always be on vacation, this scheduling method increases a school's capacity by 33% to 50%.

This year-round, multitrack system may be the most effective relief, but it creates scheduling problems for families. A family with more than one child might find its children on different schedules, making vacations and child care difficult to arrange.

"What do you do with younger children if they're (on vacation) in February or March?" said Barbara Topkis, president of the Los Angeles PTA district that includes the Westside.

"If you're going to go year-round . . . all the (YMCAs), all the camps, should be geared for year-round, because most of us (parents) work," added Linda Rosen, whose fourth-grade son attends Castle Heights School, one of the schools that may have to make changes by July.

Another option is for schools to add portable classrooms, use libraries, auditoriums or other space, or have teachers share rooms. A school might also increase class sizes, a solution that parents generally reject.

Some parents welcome a year-round schedule. "Children are off too long in the summer. They get bored--at least my children do," said Diane Brahams, a legislative coordinator for the regional PTA and a mother of two school-age daughters.

The least-liked proposal appears to be double sessions. Students at a school would be divided into two groups, one which would attend class in the morning, the other in the afternoon. The school year would be expanded from 180 to 220 days. "You're having the kids outside (for half a day) and doing nothing," said Jose Hernandez, who leads the bilingual advisory committee and the shared decision-making council at Selma Avenue School in Hollywood.

"It's very difficult on children," said PTA leader Topkis, adding that children tend to be less alert as the afternoon wears on. "Kids get tired."

Westside schools, which already accommodate thousands of students bused from elsewhere in the district, including many with limited English skills, will need to substantially expand their bilingual staff to take more, parents said.

School board member Mark Slavkin, who represents the Westside, said few parents have expressed objections to having more children bused in, but he said there is widespread "frustration of not having the resources" to educate them.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|