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YEAR-ROUND SCHOOLS ARE AN OPTION

To the editor:

I read with great interest the two articles run under the head "Panel finds Provo schools bursting at seams," (Deseret News, Feb. 26.) As a member of the committee that reported to the Provo School Board, I appreciated the coverage provided by Dennis Romboy. However, I think an important point did not receive sufficient emphasis in the articles, and I would like to offer some clarification.It is quite true that the committee recommends refurbishing existing schools, realigning school boundaries and the construction of three new schools. Funding of the new schools would come from a proposed tax increase and from the sale of bonds.

The point not adequately emphasized in the articles is that the committee outlined an alternative to the tax increase. After stating its recommendation to build three schools, the report added the following:

"It will be noted in the options listed that for each construction alternative recommended here, there is a viable scheduling option which will meet expected enrollment needs. The committee wishes to be quite clear that it considers year-round elementary and middle schools to be educationally and financially sound and therefore viable alternatives."

The recommendation is, however, that the district build three new schools. Given the controversy surrounding year-round and the cost of the (construction) alternative proposed here, it is the view of the committee that the public should be permitted to vote on the question.

"As stated above, there is no money in the current budget for new schools. To implement the construction recommendation will therefore require a tax increase . . . The public should clearly understand the options: Raise taxes to build new schools or take most schools year-round. The preference of the committee members is to raise taxes and build the schools, but should the public reject this option, year-round remains the only viable alternative."

In the debate that will hopefully emerge in the months ahead, we need to focus on the real issue. Provo schools need additional capacity. There are only two reasonable ways to get it. Either we will need to add more schools, or we will need to use the ones we have more intensely.

Adding more schools can only be done if we raise taxes. Using the schools more intensely without damaging the education of our children will require year-round schools. This is the real choice the committee is asking the public to make.

To be absolutely clear on who will be affected, the committee report states that three elementary schools will need to go year-round within five years. The most likely candidates are Canyon Crest, Rock Canyon and Provost. At the middle school level, both schools will need to go year-round within five years. At the high school level, the report states that both regular high schools will need either extended day schedules (an option not recommended) or year-round schedules within five years.

Please note that these are not scare tactics being used to generate support for a bond and tax increase. The growth projections are reasonable and if anything fairly conservative. Within five years, Provo will have more than 2,000 schoolchildren that we simply do not currently have room for.

Larry Walters

Provo