Calif. School To Offer Night Shift To Ease Crowding

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Alicia Andrew thinks it would be "cool" to go to school in the evening, instead of during the day.

So cool, in fact, that the 9th grader from the Glendale, Calif., school district took her babysitting money out of her savings account last year and visited Lacey, Wash., where one such high school exists.

What she--and other, older members of a Glendale district task force--found was a remedy for their community's soaring enrollment and limited space: Take an existing school, hire a separate teaching staff and administration, and let students who would prefer later hours go to school in the evening.

In the fall of 1995, the Glendale Unified School District plans to open a new high school that will do just that. If the district in suburban Los Angeles can recruit enough students--a minimum of 200--the school will open its doors each day at 2:15 P.M. and ring the final bell at 9 P.M.

The school will have its own name, identity, staff, and students, but it will occupy the same building as another school.

In July, the Glendale school board unanimously approved the plan. A site will be chosen from one of three existing schools next month, and districtwide recruitment of students will follow.

While only a few such high-schools exist around the country, some education officials believe the concept may be spreading.

Charles Ballinger, the executive director of the National Association for Year-Round Education, thinks evening schools are a good idea.

"My chief concern," he said, "are those school districts across the country who do not offer the options."

Aside from the unusual hours, Glendale's evening school will function like any day school, providing all the courses required for graduation; dinner, instead of lunch; and support services.

Though students will not be able to participate on interscholastic athletic teams, district officials plan to add extracurricular and intramural activities as student interest demands.

Realm of Opportunities

School officials in Glendale began to consider the evening school and other ideas a couple of years ago, when a decade of population growth began to creep up on the district's three high schools.

The number of high school students in the district--about 8,000 this year--is projected to swell to nearly 9,000 by 1997.

The task force explored such options as redistricting, building a new school, installing more portable classrooms, and switching to a multi-track, year-round calendar.

But none seemed as promising--or as affordable--as the evening school, which requires additional funding only for a principal's salary and extra electricity. District per-pupil spending and staff-student ratios stay the same.

"The whole idea originated because of [overcrowding]," said Vic Pallos, a spokesman for the Glendale district. "But what became more and more apparent was that there were some very creative things that we could do in the evening that we couldn't do during the day."

Members of the business community, for example, will be available as guest lecturers. Students will have better access to computers and other equipment because the school will have fewer students than a daytime school.

And freeing the day hours opens new opportunities for students.

"You could work a day job, you could do volunteer work, you could sleep in, you could take care of your brother or sister," said Don Duncan, the principal of Hoover High School in Glendale and a former task-force member.

A Model School

New Century High School, an evening school in Lacey, Wash., was opened five years ago in large part to alleviate overcrowding. But the 200-student school has since become a sought-after alternative to the district's bigger, more impersonal day schools.

That's what Alicia Andrew found so appealing. "I'd like it because it's a change," she said.

Some students chose New Century not for its evening hours but because they liked the school--or disliked their old schools. For others, the evening hours present opportunities to work in the local hospital or the state's government offices, said Gail Covington-McBride, the principal.

Housed in a day school that serves 1,200 students, New Century boasts approximately three computers for every student.

Response to Glendale's proposal has been mixed.

The Glendale Teachers Association fully endorsed the plan. And a district survey yielded some positive results: Twenty-six percent of students showed interest in attending the evening school, and 17 percent of parents expressed approval.

But "filling out a survey saying you're interested and actually enrolling your child are two different things," said Mr. Pallos.

Parents who were surveyed raised concerns about peak-performance hours, safety, and possible waste of tax dollars.

But supporters of the evening school said there is no indication it would adversely affect the community. Moreover, enrollment would remain voluntary.

Vol. 14, Issue 02

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