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Provo school abandons year-round schedule in a disputed decision

A west side elementary school will move to a single-track school year and optional extended schedule after a series of cottage meetings over the school calendar divided this neighborhood.

The Provo School Board ruled unanimously to drop the current four-track, year-round schedule in favor of the two schedules a survey showed were most popular with parents and students of Westridge Elementary School. The survey results presented by principal John Bone showed that the schedule now in use was the least popular.However, some parents disputed the results, claiming their voices were not heard. A 13-member school board of directors made up of 50 percent parents and 50 percent school staff decided that the summer break would be six weeks and two days.

That was hotly contested during the lengthy meeting Tuesday, but despite parent protests, the board of education voted not to interfere in setting the school calendar.

Several parents pushed for an eight-week summer. Rather, the board left intact a tradition that the school, not the board of education, decide how much of a summer break the children will have. The board of education indicated the board of directors could meet again to set the calendar.

"Every time parents get upset do we nullify (our actions) and do it again?' " asked Lisa Harkness, co-chairwoman of the board of directors. "I thought we had decided on six weeks and two days."

Bone said he was frustrated with the innuendoes and hurt the controversy caused in the Grandview Hill neighborhoods surrounding the school. "I'm not even sure everything that was said was even true," he said.

Board president Gerald Williams said he was concerned with the division and hoped a healing would take place.

"I hope the parents would model for the kids how to deal with differences however it turns out," said board member Kenneth Matheson. "I feel more about the process than the decision. We will likely have to revisit this in a couple of years, anyway."

Superintendent Michael Jacobsen said if the school population continues to grow as projected, Westridge Elementary may have to revert to the four-track, year-round schedule in order to house all the children - or build another school. That would require a bond and could mean increased taxes to run another school, he suggested.

Westridge is projected to have 833 students next school year and 1,005 by the 2000 school year, Next school year's single track schedule will run 180 days. The optional extended schedule will run 200 days.