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Palmdale to Expand Year-Round Classes

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Palmdale School District, which launched the Antelope Valley’s first year-round public school last August, decided Tuesday to expand that program by switching two more of its 18 schools to the new schedule starting this fall.

Officials of the 11,500-student district said the year-round experiment at the Cactus School has proved popular among students, parents and teachers. District officials said they expect to repeat that success at two more elementary schools, Buena Vista and Wildflower.

The district’s Board of Trustees voted Tuesday night to add the two schools.

Although year-round schedules are becoming a common response to the problem of crowded classrooms, officials in the fast-growing Palmdale district insisted that is not their main motivation, at least for now.

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“We believe it’s going to improve the learning levels of kids,” said Patrick Duffy, the district’s assistant superintendent for educational services. “But we’re not unmindful of the fact it also will help us accommodate future growth.”

In part because enrollment increases were not as high as expected, the Palmdale district has leased portable classrooms that it plans to return because they are not being used, Duffy said. For the future, however, a year-round schedule could accommodate about 20% more students than a traditional schedule.

Elsewhere in the Antelope Valley, growing districts are looking to year-round schedules to cope with crowding. The Lancaster School District plans to start its first two year-round schools this fall. And the Antelope Valley Union High School District is considering putting at least one school on a year-round calendar in 1991.

Under the Palmdale district’s year-round schedule, students are divided into five tracks, but only four tracks attend class at one time. Students have three 60-day periods of instruction broken up by three 15-day vacations. And all students are on vacation in July.

School officials believe the schedule allows students to retain more of what they learn because they are not out of class for the traditional three-month summer vacation. Also, all of the classrooms at the year-round schools have air-conditioning to shelter students from the heat of summer.

The Buena Vista and Wildflower schools have kindergarten through fifth-grade classes. With year-round schedules, school officials said, those two schools and the Cactus school will triple their enrollments--to 600 to 700 students each--and add sixth, seventh and eighth grades, filling some unused classrooms.

School officials said the additional students at those schools will come from other district schools, reducing their enrollments. But school officials also said parents will have their choice of schedules, since both Buena Vista and Wildflower share campuses with schools that will remain on the traditional schedule.


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