Patti Rasmussen

Multi-track education: A necessary change

Patti Rasmussen · June 28, 1997

I'd like to spend a moment discussing an issue that has been floating around the valley for a couple of months. The subject is multi-track, year-round education (MTYRE). It brings chills to many parents because it's scary, it's different, and it affects them. Schedules need to be adjusted. Vacations, babysitters and family time -- especially if you have older children -- all need to change. It definitely puts a crimp in your neatly organized routine.

I mean, let's face it. If you have children or are planning to have children, you probably bought your home in a certain neighborhood because of the schools. A recent article in the Signal quoted a father who bought his house in a certain Saugus neighborhood because he figured, eventually, his young children would be attending Arroyo Seco Junior High and Saugus High. Now, he finds out that the William S. Hart Union School District changed that. His kids will be attending junior and senior high school in Canyon Country. Not what he wanted when purchasing his house.

MTYRE affects parents in much the same way. You checked out the schools, you like the way they operate, and then BLAM, the school district goes and changes it on you. Sometimes those changes please you, as in the case of Stevenson Ranch Elementary School.

Two schools in the Newhall School District went through tremendous sacrifice (in some parents' minds) and a big change by agreeing to go multi-track in 1993. This allowed the school district to get funds from the state to build Stevenson Ranch school. The deal, though, was that the other schools in the district would follow suit and Stevenson Ranch school would open as a multi-track, year-round school. Guess what? It didn't happen. Not only did Stevenson Ranch Elementary open on a traditional schedule; the school board decided to return ALL schools to a traditional schedule -- which, by the way, was created so that the children who worked the family farms would be off during the harvest season, not because it's a great time to go to Maui.

Why did this happen? Did the Newhall-Valencia area suddenly have plenty of space for the children to be housed? No, not really. Within a year, Stevenson Ranch Elementary was OVER capacity. Now every school in the district (excluding Old Orchard, but that's another subject) is literally bursting at the seams.

Who was on the school board at that time, and why was this allowed to happen? The trustees included Mike McCabe, a Meadows parent; Gonzalo Freixes, Wiley Canyon; Candace Fleece, first Old Orchard and then Stevenson Ranch; Susan Edwards, same, although she voted to keep her neighborhood at Old Orchard -- the only school NOT overcrowded, remember?; and John Castagna, Peachland.

Fleece and Freixes are now off the school board. We still have Edwards and McCabe (until November), Castagna (who sounds like he'll run again), and we've elected Ron Winkler (Stevenson Ranch) and Phil Ellis (Valencia Valley). All have been working hard on various project to benefit the school district -- I guess finding a new superintendent was the biggest job they've had. But all FIVE trustees voted to turn six schools into MTYRE schools.

I, for one, am not afraid of multi-track, year-round education. I wasn't afraid of it the last time around, and I have children in all levels of education. As a parent at Newhall Elementary, I see, everyday, how that school is literally bursting at the seams and, if new portables aren't enough to satisfy the recent class-size reductions, more portables are being added to service the pre-school, the after school facility, and soon, a new health clinic.

Mind you, I believe all of the above-mentioned services are wonderful assets to the district and to the children. I also believe that the neighborhood school concept is important, but in these overcrowded, multiple-issues and problem times, multi-track, year-round education is our only solution. Unless . . .

A school bond will soon be put on the ballot, parents and voters! We need more schools, and not only in Stevenson Ranch. The east side of town has been desperate for years. Do yourself and the children of our communities a favor. Vote yes on the bond. Get involved in making sure that bond is passed and it is used for ALL schools, not just new ones.

There is a great question on the school district's questionnaire that is sent out every year to a randomly selected group of parents. It asks if you are satisfied or unsatisfied with a wide range of issues at your school site. The one great question they asked after that is, "If you are not satisfied with any item on the questionnaire, what steps have you taken to change that?"

I love that question.

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Patti Rasmussen's commentaries appear in The Signal on Saturdays.

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