The Los Angeles Board of Education voted Tuesday to add class days to calendars at as many as 38 elementary and seven middle school where the school year had been shortened.
Those overcrowded campuses will move from three-track, 163-day calendars to four tracks and 180 days. The change could affect more than 74,000 students, about a 10th of total enrollment, across the district and in some cases put more children on campuses at the same time.
Board members also decided to increase enrollment at more than 30 high schools. Under the plan, multi-track high schools that currently draw students only from their local neighborhoods will receive busloads of children from other areas. The district will also add more portable classrooms and use more spaces such as gymnasiums, auditoriums and storage spaces for academic instruction.
By 2004, the plan will create 12,600 additional seats for high school students at already overcrowded campuses where the student bodies are divided among different groups attending at different times to save space.
Both measures, which will take effect on July 1, were described by L.A. schools Supt. Roy Romer as stopgaps until the district completes its construction program for 80 new schools and 79 expansions by 2005.
"We're going to have to go this way eventually," Romer said of the change to four-track calendars.
"We should try it out now and see how it works."
Romer maintains that the 180-day calendar will be beneficial to students because it will shorten the school day while creating longer instructional blocks over the course of an academic year. Under the plan, as many as seven middle schools will have four tracks staggered with students in class for nine months and off for three months: Maclay in Pacoima, Adams in central Los Angeles, Byrd in Sun Valley, Drew and Muir in South-Central, Reed in North Hollywood and Peary in Gardena.
Elementary schools on three-track, year-round schedules that have extra space would also go on staggered four-track calendars.
Parents complained that the new schedules will complicate their home lives and make some schools even more crowded. Jon Perez, president of United Teachers-Los Angeles, called the longer, four-track calendars "unsound educationally."
"No school should be placed on this calendar," Perez said. "In some cases, you're going to have three-fourths of the students on campus during hot summer months."