Board Postpones Year-Round Schools Vote


In an 11th-hour reprieve, the Los Angeles Board of Education on Monday postponed a vote on converting four San Fernando Valley high schools to a controversial year-round calendar after hearing passionate protests over the effects of the change on a program for gifted students at North Hollywood High School.

About two dozen parents and students from the school’s magnet program for highly gifted youngsters succeeded in delaying the board vote, arguing fiercely that the change would harm the program and perhaps even kill it.

The parents and students said a school panel had already decided that the 244 magnet pupils would be placed on a year-round schedule that would effectively kill the students’ opportunities to attend summer academic programs elsewhere.


About 71% of the students in the program spend their summers attending special academic programs at colleges and other institutions.

“The school and the magnet are now placed in a lose-lose situation,” said Eric Zeehandler, who has a child enrolled in the magnet. “It threatens the immediate viability of the program.”

Board members voted 4 to 3 to postpone for two weeks a vote on the proposal to convert the four schools to a year-round calendar until more information is learned about the problem at North Hollywood High.

Board members Vickie Castro, Jeff Horton and Mark Slavkin dissented.

Horton, whose district includes North Hollywood High, said angrily that he does not feel the decision on the four schools should be delayed because board members want to “interfere” with a local campus action.

Administrators at the four high schools need to begin planning immediately for the change to a year-round schedule, he said. Proponents say the change is crucial to cope with the influx of thousands of ninth-graders as the high schools are converted from three-year to four-year institutions in September.

“For us to hold [the proposal] up here . . . I think that’s the height of central [headquarters] arrogance,” Horton said. “I think even two weeks is a slap in the face to the four schools who are spending all this time planning for it.”


District officials had proposed that the four schools--Monroe, North Hollywood, Francis Polytechnic and San Fernando--be converted to a year-round system to mitigate the overcrowding expected when those campuses enroll ninth-graders.

The schools, which have said they have little choice but to hold classes year-round, are expecting a combined enrollment of 3,864 freshmen in the 1996-97 school year.

As part of a districtwide reorganization aimed at improving education at all grade levels, the sixth grade is being shifted from elementary to middle schools, which in turn will send ninth-graders to the high schools.

The move will enable the district to return 1,550 elementary-school students--who are currently bused to less crowded campuses--to their neighborhood schools, district officials said.

They add that the burgeoning enrollments will require the campuses to find more classroom space. Under the year-round system, the students are divided into three groups. At any given time, one group is on vacation while the other two are in class, spreading the burden on school facilities.

That’s the problem for parents of students in the North Hollywood magnet program. They said a school panel has already decided that their students would be placed on a track that puts them in class for most of the summer, rather than on a calendar that more closely resembles the traditional September-through-June school year.


“I feel that summer programs are crucial to the students in the highly gifted magnet, and I would appreciate it if something could be done to make it easier for us,” Soo-Jean Chi, a magnet student, told the board.

After the two-hour discussion, the students and parents said they were pleased about the delay but were unhappy with the response of Horton, their representative on the board.

Wearing a button reading “Being Intelligent Is Not a Felony,” parent Christine Valada said she believes that Horton has taken a strict position not to help the campus. But she was pleased the other board members were sympathetic to their cause.

“I feel that the board was willing to listen to what we had to say, and that’s why we came,” she said.

Horton said he was concerned about the board’s involvement in a decision that was made by parents and staff members at the school. He said he would convene a meeting within a month to discuss potential problems for the magnet program if it remains on a schedule that requires summer classes.

“This is an issue that needs to be resolved at the local school,” Horton said. “I am frankly amazed at the level of scrutiny of one school’s decision-making process.”


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