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North Hollywood High to Begin Year-Round Calendar

April 08, 2000|KRISTINA SAUERWEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After months of protests by parents and students, one of the preeminent Los Angeles city high schools will begin operating year-round in July, Interim Supt. Ramon C. Cortines announced Friday.

With classrooms crowded with 3,500 students, the switch will allow North Hollywood High School to stop busing hundreds of neighborhood students to distant campuses in the San Fernando Valley. The change also will allow expansion of the school's nationally acclaimed magnet program for highly gifted students by almost 100 students, said Principal John Hyland.

North Hollywood High is the latest school in the Los Angeles Unified School District to convert to a year-round calendar as the district grapples with overcrowding.

Seventeen of the district's 49 high schools operate year-round. All could eventually switch to the system if new schools are not built, district officials said.

A district policy approved in 1998 requires that high schools that send more than 250 students to other campuses because of overcrowding convert to year-round schedules. North Hollywood sends 410 students to other high schools. Another 123 students attend other schools voluntarily.

Hyland believes North Hollywood High could return to a traditional schedule in two to three years. But he and others say that goal might be unrealistic because of space shortages in the 711,000-student district.

Cortines has said that schools in other parts of the city already on year-round calendars "must have first priority" in the building of new schools to relieve overcrowding.

He declined to comment Friday.

"What is so distressing is that adults messed up and the kids will suffer," said school board member Caprice Young, who represents North Hollywood.

She said the failure of previous school boards to move quickly on building new schools has forced students and parents to accommodate year-round schedules. Under the schedule proposed for North Hollywood, the student body will be divided into three groups, with two groups attending school at any given time.

Angry and disappointed parents said Friday they might seek a court injunction against the district to keep the school from operating during the summer. They also threatened to transfer their children to private schools or other districts.

"The district has failed our children miserably," said Marilyn Morrison, whose 10th-grade daughter attends North Hollywood High.

Morrison helped develop an alternative to year-round classes that parents presented to Cortines on Tuesday.

"They watched the school get overcrowded for years and they did not do anything," Morrison said. "They failed miserably in their duty to provide seats and a good education to these students."

She and other parents of high-achieving students fear that their children will miss the chance to attend summer enrichment programs offered by colleges. In addition, they oppose plans to extend the school day by about 20 minutes while reducing the school year by 17 days.

North Hollywood High ranks as one of the top 30 campuses in the United States. In February, its students won the school's third straight regional science bowl.

The campus is home to magnet programs for the highly gifted and for zoology students and three "academies" that prepare students for careers in transportation, teaching and environmental sciences.

For the last three years, the school's highly gifted magnet--a program of 244 students who have IQs of 145 or higher--produced the nation's No. 1 Advanced Placement scholar.

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