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Year-Round Schooling OKd for East Side : Education: The program has been restricted to Long Beach’s poorer western and central areas. Now it will be expanded.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

School board members, who had previously approved year-round schools only in the city’s lower-income areas, agreed this week to expand the program to the more affluent east side by next year.

The board on Monday directed its staff to recommend at least one east-side school for conversion to a year-round schedule in the 1991-91 school year.

Board of Education members Jenny Oropeza and Bobbie Smith stressed that to ensure equity in the Long Beach Unified School District, year-round programs must be created across the city.

“Now everybody is committed and absolutely firm that we’re going to have it,” Oropeza said after the board meeting.

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Board member Harriet Williams said parents are ready to support year-round schools. “I think there’s a lot of interest out there for this kind of school,” she said.

Seven elementary schools in the west and central sections of the city have year-round classes: Burbank, Burnett, Lee, Lincoln, Stevenson, Roosevelt and Willard.

“If it’s good for the west side and if it’s good for the central area, then it’s good for the east side,” Smith told her colleagues.

Until this week, however, the majority of school board members had rejected efforts to expand the controversial year-round program to more affluent areas. Earlier this year, when Smith and Oropeza asked their colleagues to select two east-side schools for the program, they lost on a 3-2 vote.

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Last year, when the board created three year-round schools in the poorer sections of town, it also balked at establishing year-round classes at east-side schools, despite protests by minority groups such as the Long Beach chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.

Three years ago, when the board first established year-round programs in four schools, a group of east-side parents said they did not want such a program in their neighborhood schools.

A year-round program eliminates the traditional three-month summer vacation and instead offers students and teachers a series of shorter breaks. Supporters say this schedule eases overcrowding by dividing the student body into groups, one of which is always on vacation. Some studies also indicate that students perform better in a year-round program, educators say.

Several board members have indicated a preference for the plan that divides the students into groups, but there are other options for year-round programs.

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For example, the board could have all students take their breaks at the same time. Although that plan would not alleviate overcrowding, officials say, students and teachers would enjoy the other benefits of year-round schooling, such as less likelihood of burnout.

The board could also pair a year-round school with a traditional school to allow parents a choice.

Before the end of the decade, however, parents of young children may no longer have a choice in Long Beach.

Unless growth trends change or the district gets more money for schools--both considered unlikely--school officials plan to convert all the city’s elementary schools to year-round schedules by 1998.

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By 2000, officials said, the school board may also have to consider converting middle schools and senior high schools to year-round programs.

The Los Angeles Unified School District decided in February to put all its schools on a year-round program. The plan angered many parents, who argued that it would disrupt family vacations and create child-care problems.

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