Glendale Turns to Night School to Ease Crowds
In the fall of 1995, a new kind of high school will open in Glendale--one where classes begin at about 2 in the afternoon and end at 9 at night.
The principal, teachers and students will have use of all the facilities and supplies available at an existing high school campus and will start their classes just as the typical school day is about to end.
Yet this high school will have its own identity, even its own name.
The new school, for now known simply as Evening High School, is believed to be one of the first of its kind in California. Less than a dozen evening high schools with regular curricula are known to exist nationwide.
Across the country, adult-education programs and continuation schools for teen-agers struggling with academics are commonly offered in the evening. But education groups in California and elsewhere say evening comprehensive classes for regular high school students are rare.
Glendale Unified School District officials turned to the unusual alternative in the hope of alleviating crowding. The district is ready to burst at the seams with nearly 29,000 students crammed into a traditional class schedule.
Virtually every school district today appears to be grappling with formidable problems--budget cuts, teen-age dropouts, crowded classrooms and combinations of all three.
Staggering the school day is just one way of coping. Some say that Glendale’s program and others like it offer a foretaste of how many secondary schools will one day operate.
“People need their institutions to be as flexible as they are. What you’re seeing is schools starting to respond to that,” said Michael Casserly, who heads the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of the nation’s largest public school systems.
In Glendale, district officials had considered a year-round program for the high schools to cope with rapidly rising enrollment. But they decided against offering year-round sessions because of a perceived difficulty with getting students fully prepared in time for colleges and universities.
Another option, installing portable classrooms, was turned down when the district determined that its high school campuses lacked enough space.
Last year and this year, a Glendale high school principal toured two out-of-state high schools where many students thrived on evening learning.
A task force of parents, students, teachers and school officials helped develop a preliminary plan for an evening high school in Glendale that was unanimously approved by the school board in July.
Reaction to the voluntary night school program has been mixed within the school system. The Glendale Teachers Assn. backed the plan. But on at least one campus, Glendale High School, the issue has polarized parents and students.
“The problem is students think this is a school for people who don’t have a clue, and the parents don’t want their children home all day without supervision,” said Candace Hakonsson, 16, a task force member who read more than 100 responses to a recent survey about the plan.
Details about the new high school are still subject to change, but are not likely to be greatly altered.
* A school site will be chosen by October of this year from among three existing campuses: Crescenta Valley, Glendale and Hoover high schools. A principal, whose early responsibility is to meet with interested students and parents, will be chosen the following month.
* Student registration will take place from March to April of next year. Enrollment is voluntary and all Glendale students who will be in grades nine through 12 are eligible to attend.
* The principal will begin to staff the high school in April. Teachers already in Glendale schools will be able to easily transfer into Evening High School before the district determines whether additional instructors need to be hired.
* Classes begin in September, 1995.
The district expects to draw a wide range of students--from those who are college-bound to those at risk of dropping out.
A typical set of classes will be offered, such as English, math, science, history and physical education. The high school’s core curriculum meets entrance requirements for the University of California, district officials said.
Advanced Placement and English as a Second Language instruction will probably be available, but shop classes and interscholastic sports won’t be offered.
District officials stress that Evening High School will be unlike Allan F. Daily High in Glendale, a continuation school where students with disciplinary problems and bad attendance records are assigned.
The evening high school will accommodate between 200 and 600 students, though district officials say a minimum of 200 to 250 is needed for the first year. Otherwise, the school might not open and in its place less desirable options, such as installing portable classrooms, may be adopted.
The student-to-teacher ratio in Glendale schools is presently 32-to-1. Initially, a district spokesman said, it will probably remain the same at Evening High School.
Away from the classroom, students will be able to create most of the extracurricular activities they want, district officials said.
At other schools, for example, clubs meet during lunch or at the end of the day. Students at the evening school will have similar choices to gather during dinner break, and before and after classes.
Whether the program succeeds or fails depends largely on how well everyone involved adapts to the change, some say.
“So much of this is related to how the community feels it can best address the problems of overcrowding,” said Harry Handler, former superintendent of Los Angeles public schools, now an adjunct professor of education at UCLA.
“There’s a key point here: It is voluntary,” he added.
As the Los Angeles Unified School District began year-round programs at schools in the late 1970s, Handler said, there was concern from many people about how well it would work.
“Eventually what tends to happen is that, over time, people working together generate solutions to problems,” he said. “While the problems don’t go away, the problems are identified . . . and changes become advantages.”
Teachers and administrators in Glendale cite several advantages students have in attending school late in the day: the chance to hold part-time jobs in the morning, easier access to school supplies such as computers, and the ability to come to class wide awake.
As Glendale School Board President Sharon Beauchamp put it, “Young people are just like adults. There are day young people, and there are night young people.”
It is the idea of “night young people” that has some neighbors of Hoover High School worried about continuous noise and traffic.
“I don’t have a problem with the concept of it,” said Madeleine Hibbs, 45, a mother of two who lives across the street from the campus. “This could well be the perfect solution for us. My concern is if this will be at Hoover High. I don’t know what the profile of these students is going to be.”
Hibbs said she would not send her young children, ages 5 and 9, to an evening campus when they reach high school age.
A recent survey of 719 parents and 1,182 students in eighth, ninth and 10th grades indicates that 76% of parents would not send their children to evening high school, and 67% of students do not want to go.
One parent, Susan Nowicke, told the task force she wanted to stop the program because she feared that students will not learn as much at night and won’t see their families at home.
“The kids are not disciplined enough to get up and get their studies done,” the 33-year-old mother of two said. “They’ll go to bed and get up whenever they happen to get up.”
If this was any other type of poll, the negative ratings would surely be disheartening.
But Glendale school officials quickly point out that 302 students showed an interest in attending--more than enough for Evening High School to open as planned.
The cost of operating and staffing the school for the next five years is estimated at $894,125, or about $135,000 more than the price for installing portable classrooms.
“You need to go back and ask the question, ‘Is there any reason why facilities should only be used during the day and not be in operation on weekends and at night?’ ” said district Supt. Robert Sanchis.
About a decade ago, the Los Angeles Unified School District had a converse experience from Glendale’s. Los Angeles school officials considered opening evening high schools, but determined that few students would want to attend.
Today, the district uses busing and year-round programs to alleviate crowding and offers high school students the option of taking some of their classes in the day and others at night in adult education facilities.
No one knows for sure how many evening high schools are open in California because districts are not required to notify the state Department of Education or any other agency about it.
The only state requirements for opening such a school are that no one under the ninth grade can be enrolled; parental permission is mandatory; and a certain amount of time in the school day must be reserved for instruction.
“There’s no law that says (high school) has to take place during a certain time of day,” said Susie Lange, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. “Our opinion is this is what local control is designed for.”
Evening high schools in other states have attracted a mix of students ranging from overachievers to potential dropouts.
In Las Vegas, Sunset High School was created 22 years ago in order to curb the drop-out rate.
Some teen-agers, Principal Frank Roqueni said, “had a hard time getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning to catch the bus. Pretty soon they’re getting kicked out of school for missing first period.”
Gradually, the concept of evening education piqued the interest of students looking for more personal attention, Roqueni said. Now, the high school’s 700 to 800 students say that is the No. 1 reason why they attend night classes.
In Lacey, Wash., near the state capital of Olympia, River Ridge High School becomes New Century High for about 200 night students.
Sixteen-year-old Desiree Monroy does her homework either after school, at about 9 p.m., or first thing in the morning.
“I learn a lot more,” she said. “I don’t sleep through classes anymore. I’m more alert by that time. I’ve already been up for most of the day so by the time I get to school, I’m ready to get going.”
Hoover High School Principal Don Duncan visited Sunset and New Century high schools in October, 1993, and last May to learn more about them.
“Initially, the biggest challenge is to show students the advantage of going to school at night,” Duncan said. “This is not a continuation school. . . . That is not what this is.”