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Most Schools Reject All-Year Class Schedule

TIMES STAFF WRITER

All but one of more than 540 Los Angeles school district campuses and centers eligible to change their schedules will revert to a traditional September-to-June calendar this fall, according to campus voting results released Thursday.

The schools and centers represent about two-thirds of all those in the mammoth Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest public school system.

An initial tally showed that a sizable majority of parents, teachers and administrators voted to reject the year-round calendar the Board of Education instituted two years ago over the vociferous objections of many parents, especially in the San Fernando Valley and the Westside.

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That angry opposition was borne out in results that revealed votes for the traditional calendar to be especially heavy in the Valley and the Westside, as well as in Harbor-area schools.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” school board member Julie Korenstein--who had opposed the move to a universal year-round schedule--said of the vote. “I really knew that the majority of the people in L.A. Unified wanted to return to the traditional calendar.”

However, more than 200 multitrack schools that must maintain the year-round schedule to relieve overcrowding will not be affected by the vote. Those schools, which children attend on rotating schedules throughout the year, serve about 40% of the district’s 640,000 students.

An additional 100 centers for troubled students, vocational training, infant care and other services will continue to operate year-round.

The Board of Education must formally ratify the results of the calendar vote June 7.

District officials at the schools returning to the traditional calendar must now begin notifying parents that the first day of classes will be Sept. 7--not in mid-August, as it would have been under the year-round schedule. The winter recess will be cut from eight weeks to two, and summer vacation will be nearly three months again, rather than six weeks.

The ballot results come just three weeks after the Board of Education agreed to allow parents, teachers and administrators to decide which schedule to adopt. At the board’s May 3 meeting, speaker after speaker complained that the year-round schedule threw students into unbearably hot classrooms at the height of summer and created child-care problems during the extended winter break.

Other parents said the two-month winter holiday had a negative impact on the education of their children, who could not retain what they learned in the beginning of the school year.

But Gordon Wohlers, the head of the district office that coordinates scheduling, said test scores and other academic indicators did not seem to have been adversely affected by the year-round schedule.

“Certainly there was no evidence that there was harm caused in any way academically by the calendar,” he said.

Wohlers acknowledged that the heat turned out to be an issue difficult to ignore, as well as the $4.2 million the cash-strapped district had to spend annually to implement the year-round schedule at all district schools. Those costs mostly stemmed from extra staffing hours to prepare for the long breaks and maintaining winter sports programs through traditional athletic seasons.

But Wohlers said that, given the high emotion surrounding the calendar issue, he and other district officials were surprised by the number of votes cast in favor of keeping the year-round schedule.

Under the balloting process developed by the district, schools were grouped by high school “complexes.” Forty-seven of the district’s 49 high schools and their feeder elementary and junior high campuses voted. The remaining two groupings--both of them in East Los Angeles--are composed entirely of schools on multiple tracks because of crowding and were not eligible to make a choice.

Schedules were decided by the majority vote within each complex rather than at the individual school level.

Only the Jefferson High School complex in South Los Angeles opted to stick with the current schedule. Only one campus within that complex--Johnson High, a continuation-type school--would have been eligible to adopt the traditional calendar.

The most lopsided tallies in favor of the traditional calendar were in the Valley, the Westside and the Harbor area. In the Taft High School complex in Woodland Hills, the count ran 5 to 1 for a September-to-June schedule. Parents, teachers and administrators at three other Valley complexes voted 4 to 1 to scrap the year-round calendar.

In the Palisades High School complex on the Westside, the votes for a traditional schedule outnumbered those for the common calendar by about 4 to 1. The San Pedro High School complex tally was nearly 3 to 1.

Although the complexes--except Jefferson--in the central city and South Los Angeles areas also opted to return to the traditional calendar, the votes were generally closer. In one case, Roosevelt, the year-round plan lost by fewer than 100 votes out of nearly 8,000.


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