In the next three to five years, the Jordan District will have to impose year-round schedules on several middle schools and high schools, at least on a temporary basis. Once begun, "temporary," could possibly last as long as 10 years.
Whether this turns out to be an emotional struggle with anger, resistance, and hard feelings, or whether it becomes a positive experience - making the most out of necessity - will depend on everyone involved: parents, students, teachers, and administrators.Make no mistake, this is not a question of "if" the district will have year-round secondary schools. It is only a question of "when."
Why the need for year-round middle and high schools? Jordan District is crowded with youngsters. It also is bonded to capacity and can't acquire more debt. A population "bulge" in elementary school ranks is approaching the secondary level and there will be no place to put many of the students. A new high school would cost more than $20 million. The only other alternative would be for residents to raise their taxes, an unlikely prospect.
By going to year-round schedules, secondary schools could increase their capacity by 25 to 30 percent, enough to ride out the coming classroom crunch. Of the six regular high schools in the district, only three - West Jordan, Alta, and later, Bingham - would be forced into year-round operations.
District administrators are positive the concept can work, but they are not going into it with blinders. The experience will be difficult and painful for many people. How school patrons respond will be the key.
Year-round elementary schools work well in the Jordan District and elsewhere. One may ask, why would year-round secondary schools be so difficult? The answer is the complexity of the high school curriculum.
Elementary schools have children assigned to a single classroom and the different grades each have a fairly standardized program. Juggling schedules is not too hard. But high schools are different.
They have many courses, and many options or "selectives," many special classes, and many kinds of education. Some students take general education courses, some are in college prep classes, many are in vocational education, and some are in specialized classes for art, music, dance, etc.
Any year-round program would have to curtail many selectives, a painful thing to do. It would pose serious teaching problems and require some teachers to go on a 12-month schedule at considerable increase in salary. How does an advanced placement chemistry teacher, for example, deal with the fact that one-third of his students are always out of school?
Yet it must be done. It has been done in a few other states, but as soon as the need passes, high schools always revert to the old schedule, simply because it offers richer curriculum. That undoubtedly will be the case in the Jordan District as well.
In the case of the Jordan District, bonded debt will be paid off by 1996. That will open the doors to meeting the needs of the future; perhaps even a new high school some day. In the meantime, patrons should gird themselves for a challenging decade of the '90s, and do it with patience, willingness to help, and a determination to make the best of things.