Year-Round Plan for Norwalk School Wins Widespread Support

Times Staff Writer

The Anna M. Glazier School could become the first year-round school in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, following a push by teachers and support from parents for the proposed schedule change.

Although a majority of parents at a meeting Tuesday night voted for the new schedule, the final decision rests with Supt. Bruce Newlin. Parents were allowed to continue balloting through 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Under the new schedule, students would attend the school, which has grades kindergarten through seventh, for 180 days, as in a September-to-June calendar. But instead of taking two weeks' vacation at Christmas, a week at Easter and 10 weeks in summer, Glazier students would take off a month in December, April and August. Teachers requested nine additional paid workdays under the new schedule for additional planning time.

Glazier teachers initiated the year-round proposal not because of overcrowding but because, they said, the vacation schedule would alleviate teacher and student "burnout," improve students' retention of lessons and provide more time for planning instruction.

"I'm convinced it's going to benefit kids, as long as families are not inconvenienced," principal Ginger House told parents Tuesday. Parents who do not wish their children to attend Glazier under the new program may send them to the nearby Loretta F. Lampton School, House said.

Turnout Called Poor

Although only 27 of 41 parents on Tuesday voted for the new schedule--"a disappointing turnout," House said --parents at two previous meetings had expressed overwhelming support for the idea. Parents received three mailings on the proposal, she said, and were notified that the district would consider them in favor of the new schedule if they did not vote.

Parents' votes, however, are not the final word in deciding whether to implement the new schedule, House said. The school board has supported the proposal, said board member Marge Beckman, but the final decision rests with the superintendent.

Glazier teachers need the nine extra workdays in the year-round schedule for preparation "when they're not tired from working all day," House said. Teachers in the district normally work 184 days a year, with four days for planning time. The year-round schedule at Glazier allows for 13 teacher workdays and will cut down on hiring of substitutes while teachers attend workshops, House said.

Lillien Krzeminski , a teacher at Glazier for 18 years, said teachers typically spend the first six weeks of the school year reviewing material students have forgotten over the long summer vacation. The year-round schedule, she said, "will make quite a difference for us. It's going to save so much teacher burnout."

Teacher Gloria Charroin said she was "very excited" about the new schedule because it offers longer vacations at Christmas and Easter. "I'm always exhausted," she said. "I have first-graders. You're just on all the time to keep up with them."

Parents who voted for the proposal Tuesday were equally enthusiastic.

Son Gets Bored

"I support it 1,000%," said Parent-Teachers Assn. vice president Bonnie Turner. "With my son, who is a third-grader, I notice that he gets very antsy and bored after three (summer) months off."

Trying to review lessons over the summer with her son is "like a husband teaching his own wife to drive," Turner said. Students, she said, "have lost a lot when they go back in September."

Parents pressed House for a promise to provide child care and/or extra classes for several weeks in the monthlong December and April vacation periods. They expressed concern that the heat would adversely affect students in class in July.

House cited statistics to show that July is actually cooler than September or October. Teachers would use fans, take students outside and make adjustments in physical education classes to help relieve heat problems, she said.

Lorraine Hawkins, mother of two children at the school, said she agreed "with the concept of retention of learning" but was opposed to having her children "home in the winter and at school on a beautiful summer day."

If Newlin approves the schedule, Glazier would be the first year-round school in the district. About 20 other schools in Los Angeles County and 85 in California have chosen a single-track year-round schedule for educational purposes over the past decade, said Charles Ballinger, executive secretary of the National Council on Year-Round Education.

Because of overcrowding, an additional 150 schools in California are on year-round schedules in which students at the same school are placed on three or four overlapping tracks, each with a separate schedule of vacations.

The year-round schedule at Glazier has nothing to do with overcrowding, House said. The school, which houses 525 students in kindergarten through seventh grade, has held up to 600 students in the past 10 years.

Retention Trouble

Ballinger said that research shows that children who score below the 50th percentile on academic tests "have trouble with retention over a long summer vacation period." By cutting down on that vacation, the year-round school benefits these students in particular, Ballinger said.

"Gifted children," he said, "are going to learn almost anywhere they are, whether they're on vacation or not."

Noting that Glazier teachers had requested nine extra workdays, Ballinger said the "wave of the future" in U.S. education is longer school calendars for both teachers and students, with some type of year-round schedule.

"Teachers who are dedicated would really go in that direction," Ballinger said. "And the public is ready for better academic preparation of its children."

The United States, he said, has the shortest school year of all the industrial nations. Japan, for example, provides 220 school days for its students.

"I really think the extended year is going to come," Ballinger said. "If our nation wishes to compete with the educational level of other nations, we have no choice."

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