The Provo School Board called for a yearlong cease-fire Tuesday among combatants in war about year-round school at Canyon Crest Elementary, during which committees will study the concept and other alternatives to ease overcrowding.
"I hope that never, ever again will we be in a situation where we talk about us and them," said board President Mossi White.The "us" was the school board, which voted to place Canyon Crest on a year-round schedule. The "them" was a vocal group of parents who adamantly opposed the schedule change. Parents favoring the change were largely silent.
"I don't feel like the enemy. I feel like someone working for the benefit of every student," said board member Gayle Chandler.
Now that a truce has been called, talks aimed at helping children's education will begin.
Citizen committees will be formed to evaluate the pros and cons of year-round school not just for Canyon Crest, but for the entire Provo district. The committees will also examine other possible options to handle increasing student populations. Those options could include moving school boundaries.
The board decided in January to place the school on a year-round schedule beginning in July. That decision led to an ugly fight between the board and angry parents who opposed the change. Parents accused board members of being undemocratic and failing to listen to their concerns. They argued that there are less-expensive and less-disruptive methods to handle crowded schools.
Parents now have an opportunity to study what those methods might be.
"I think it's a good idea to study the issue carefully and develop empirical data with which to make a decision," said Brian Harrison, a parent of three Canyon Crest students.
While those against year-round school were generally satisfied with the board's decision, proponents of the change were not.
"I'm disappointed by the board's decision," said Barbara Hammond, whose daughter will attend Canyon Crest next year.
Hammond said she favors a year-round schedule because national studies she has read indicate it is better for children's education. The shorter breaks during the year help children retain more of what they've been taught, she said.
But Hammond said she is willing to talk things out.
"I think we need to let the emotions die down and get to the real issues," she said.
Both sides say they will be able to work together to find an acceptable solution to the Canyon Crest problem.
"It's my plea that we look at what's right, not who'sright," said board member Ken Matheson.
That might be easier said than done for some.
Paul Evans, one of the most vocal critics of the board, complained that the board allowed too many speakers supporting its position to speak at Tuesday's meeting. Before the meeting, the board granted eight people time to address it. Seven favored the year-round schedule, one opposed it.
"I'm really disappointed that they would stack the deck like this," Evans said.
If that's any indication of how the committees will be set up, he said, an equitable solution might be difficult.
"I hope they provide for input from both sides," he said.
Board members assured parents that all viewpoints will be heard in the coming year.