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UTAH USES YEAR-ROUND SCHOOLS TO BATTLE ENROLLMENT GROWTH

It's not for everyone. But year-round education appears to be making the grade in a growing number of Utah schools.

"As far as education, it's one of the best things I could see happen," said Max Packineau, PTA president at Parkview Elementary in Salt Lake City. "When children are off for three months they tend to forget a lot of things."

Since 1985, year-round education has grown steadily in Utah. During the 1990-91 school year, more than 55,000 Utah students in 65 schools were attending year-round schools. All but five were elementaries.

The increase is due mainly to school districts' inability to keep uo with growth. A legislative edict against building new schools until current buildings are fully utilized has discouraged construction.

Most schools that adopt year-round calendars have done so to increase their capacity, but Salt Lake District has put four schools on year-round schedules to increase instr54uctional time and, hopefully, improve learning.

In year-round schools, students are assigned to one of four tracks. The tracks are staggered so that one is vacationing while the others are in session. On Utah's most popular year-round schedule, students attend school for 45 days then have 15 days off.

In 1987, the number of year-round schools in Utah doubledafter the Legislature ordered school districts to close buildings not operating at 70 percent capacity.

At that time, it began offering them money to investigate such options as year-round calendars and extended-day programs.

Since then, school building expenditures have declined from $142.9 million in 1985 to $69.6 million in 1989, despite continuing enrollment growth.

A 1989 survey by the State Board of Education found 83 percent of parents with students in year round schools are happy with the program. The same percentage said adjusting to the year-round schedule hadn't been difficult.

But 38 percent said having children attending schools with different schedules was an inconvenience.

"The major reason for the opposition is that it inconveniences parents. You've got to rearrange childcare schedules," said Larry Horyna, coordinator of Project Assistance Services in the Utah Office of Education.

"If you have numerous kids at different levels and bigger kids taking care of younger ones, you can't do that under this system," he said.

There are other drawbacks. Schools must be air-conditioned during summer months, at an average cost of $125,000 to $150,000. But the biggest problem in the past has been resistance to change.

Most schools anticipate that and let parents choose how to deal with overcrowding. Most opt for year-round school after learning more about it.

Those that don't include Mountain View Elementary and Backman Elementary in Salt Lake City.

Backman teacher Kathryn Anderson said educcators nixed the idea for a number of reasons. Some didn't want to give up summer jobs or wanted to keep their summers free for travel or education. Others had children attending traditional schools and didn't want the child-care problem.