The Lynwood Unified School District's new year-round school schedule, which began only two weeks ago, has run into a legal roadblock that may force officials to cancel classes as early as Monday.
A Superior Court judge recently agreed to a temporary restraining order suspending classes in five district schools, but delayed issuing it until Friday to give the district time to appeal.
Judge Kenneth W. Gale in Compton ruled that the district failed to follow state regulations for notifying parents of the new year-round schedule. A parents group, PIE (Parents Interested in Education), went to court to try to block the year-round schedule. PIE members have argued that the district should be focusing on improving students' low test scores and addressing other problems before launching a year-round schedule.
"Our scores are so low," PIE Vice President Teresa Uribe said Tuesday. "We have a lot of absent teachers." She also said she was concerned that some of the schools with summer classes are not air-conditioned.
The district is preparing an appeal to the judge's order, but faces a tight deadline. It must obtain a favorable ruling from the state Court of Appeal by Monday if classes are to continue. School Supt. Audrey Clarke said she is confident that the district's appeal will be successful.
Gale has ordered both parties in the dispute to return to his courtroom July 23 for arguments on whether the year-round school schedule should be suspended permanently.
School Trustee Willard Hawn Reed, an advocate of year-round schools, said this week that the district missed one of three deadlines for publishing notices about the new schedule. He pointed out, however, that two other notices were published on time, and that throughout the school year, students carried home several messages in English and Spanish about the year-round schedule.
School officials say overcrowded districts such as Lynwood must have year-round schedules to receive state funding for new school buildings. The district must show state officials that its existing buildings are being used the entire year, Clarke and Reed said. At least half of the district's 15,000 students in the district are housed in temporary buildings because there is not enough space, Reed said. Lynwood High School, which was built to accommodate 1,600 students, has an enrollment of about 3,500, he added. The district has plans to build a new high school but needs state money to pay for it.
The year-round schedule was started two weeks ago at five schools--three elementary schools, the junior high school and the high school. Six other elementary schools are scheduled to switch to year-round schedules.
The court battle is the second in the district over a year-round program. In 1981, a parents group persuaded a court to nullify a year-round school program one day before classes were scheduled to begin. The court at the time also ruled that the district had failed to notify parents properly.
Student scores in Lynwood on state achievement tests are among the lowest in California, and the district has been under scrutiny in several areas in recent years.
Two years ago, the state fined the district $360,000 for failing to hire enough teachers or substitutes, which had resulted in overcrowded classrooms. In some cases the district was putting children from different grade levels in the same classroom when their teachers were absent, state officials said.