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Glendale Plans for Year-Round Schools : Crowding: The school board asks administrators to begin planning schedules at some schools and warns that even this measure may not solve the problem.

March 22, 1990|LORI GRANGE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As expected, the Glendale Board of Education this week asked district administrators to begin planning year-round class schedules for the district's most crowded schools, but said even that measure may be inadequate to accommodate a burgeoning student enrollment.

Recently revised estimates show that unless the district takes dramatic steps to ease school crowding, about 2,770 students could be "unhoused" within two years.

The board on Tuesday told administrators to begin designing calendars for a multitrack year-round system that is to be phased in by July, 1991, at the most severely overcrowded schools, including Marshall, Mann and Muir elementaries. Those plans, which should determine which schools will go year-round and when, will be reported to the board May 15.

The decision to go year-round was not surprising. Board members acknowledged months ago that year-round education was the most appealing of four strategies for coping with rising enrollments. Those options included changing boundaries, constructing more classrooms or schools or transferring sixth-graders from elementary schools to junior highs and ninth-graders to senior highs.

But the board was expected Tuesday to choose from among those options. Instead, it told administrators to explore all of them simultaneously--warning that overcrowding could soon be so severe that year-round education alone may not curb the problem.

"I'm very concerned that when we get year-round education, even that's not going to do it," said Jane Whitaker, the board's president. "I know we're going to be facing major problems" if enrollment continues to increase. "It's going to take a combination of options," she said.

Student enrollment has jumped 22% since 1985, mostly in southern Glendale's elementary schools. The student population, now about 24,400, is expected to grow about 5% a year and may reach 28,300 by 1992, officials predict.

Estimates of the number of future 'unhoused' students have risen in the last several weeks, from less than 2,500 to more than 2,700.

"I think you have to keep all your options open," board member Charles Whitesell said. "You have 26 schools with a lot of different requirements. What meets the needs of one may not meet the needs of all."

Only a small audience attended Tuesday's board meeting and no parents spoke to the board. But one parent afterward called the decision a "disgrace" and warned that he would move out of Glendale if his children's school--Balboa Elementary--adopted a year-round schedule.

School officials said they expect more questions from parents when the district begins implementing year-round calendars at specific schools.

The board also approved three short-term measures to create more classroom space until the more permanent solutions are ready to take effect: using portable trailers as classrooms, busing new students to less-crowded schools and extending the school day at junior and senior highs.

The first two measures have been used extensively in southern Glendale schools and are expected to continue for at least a year. The third, adding early morning or late afternoon classes at junior and senior highs, will be used as a short-term measure only if necessary, board members said.

Board members said Tuesday that they believe the multitrack year-round system will allow schools to increase their capacity by 25%. Students will be divided into different "tracks" that attend class on a rotating basis, with one group on vacation while the other three groups are in school.

The board instructed administrators to develop options that would allow parents to have siblings attend school at the same time or who want to their children to attend school on the traditional schedule.

Officials have warned that garnering state funds to air-condition year-round classrooms for use during the may not be easy. Air-conditioning in five elementaries would cost at least $1 million, said David Kanthak, the district's assistant superintendent of business services.

The state has encouraged districts to go year-round by providing financial incentives, Kanthak said, but Glendale administrators are uncertain whether those funds will be available when they actually begin year-round schedules. Little state funding is available for construction of classrooms or new schools.

Financing the plan is not the board's only worry. Parents already have asked how child care, sports and extracurricular activities will be accommodated with divided student tracks. Board members have said that cooperation by community and youth groups is essential if year-round schools are to work, but some groups, such as the YMCA, are among those who have spoken against the move.

"The price we're paying as a total community has to be assessed," said Carl Meseck, general manager of the YMCA on Louise Street, which operates the summer Camp Fox on Catalina Island.

But city parks and recreation officials said they may expand their after-school and vacation-time programs to accommodate the year-round system.

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