PASCO -- The Pasco School District appears poised to run many of its schools on a staggered, all-year schedule by fall 2012 to ease overcrowding.
The school board is at least a month away from a vote on whether to switch its elementary and middle schools to a multi-track year-round sche-dule.
But it appears a task force gathered to examine all options available to the district will recommend staggered year-round schooling as the preferred solution to the district's crowded classrooms.
Two public information sessions about multi-track year-round school will be held next week.
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The district currently has room for about 13,000 students, said John Morgan, executive director of operations. More than 15,000 attended classes in Pasco last school year.
That number is expected to rise to 17,500 by 2013, Morgan said.
But school capacity won't rise along with enrollment after voters rejected a bond proposal in April. And that leaves the district searching for alternatives, the most promising of which appears to be multi-track, year-round schooling.
In that model, the student body of a school is split up into, for example, four groups. Of those four groups, only three are in the building on any given day, thus freeing up 25 percent of the school's capacity.
Students go to school 60 days, then stay home for 20 -- a pattern that is repeated three times each year, according to one system used in other states. There's no long summer break.
Each group of students would still have the legally required 180-day school year and traditional holiday breaks would remain untouched, Morgan said.
The district also would do everything possible to have siblings be on the same schedule.
The model is not intended to reach into the high schools, because of the many academic and extracurricular offerings that need to be available to those students.
Multi-track schooling has been done in elementary and middle schools in many other cities with rapid growth.
But parents in Pasco in the last few months have asked the district to consider the model only for elementary schools, Morgan said.
It would be possible to exclude middle schools from the new schedule, by, for example, reorganizing the schools so that sixth-graders attend elementary schools, he said.
Even with this new change to the model, multi-track year-round schooling could buy the district about five or six years until it would run out of room again, Morgan said.
Not being in school for 20-day periods throughout the year makes it difficult to participate in extra-curricular activities and state-mandated testing.
Solutions to both have been discussed, Morgan said. Kids still could come to school for, say, band practice even if it's not their turn to be in class.
And Pasco administrators have talked to state school officials about changing testing dates for kids who aren't in school when the rest of the state takes the tests, Morgan said.
Switching to the different schedule would increase operating costs. In Reno, Nev., those added costs were about $100,000 per school per year, Morgan said.
A task force made up of Pasco parents, teachers and administrators has discussed how to alleviate overcrowding in Pasco since February.
They have considered double-shifting -- running a morning and an afternoon shift of classes -- but found it to be much less appealing than multi-track year-round, Morgan said.
The task force will make its recommendation to the board in August, likely at the Aug. 9 meeting, he said.
One member of the task force on Wednesday said that she has become convinced that multi-track year-round is the best way to help her kids learn in the overcrowded schools.
"I believe I'm in favor of it," said Heidi Redfield, who will have three kids at James McGee Elementary this fall.
She said nobody on the task force was excited about multi-track year-round school, but all agreed something needed to be done.
"I believe most will recommend it as a first option," she said.
The Pasco School District will hold two information sessions about the proposed multi-track year-round schedule next week:
* 7 p.m. Monday at McLoughlin Middle School, 2803 Road 88.
* 7 p.m. Wednesday at James McGee Elementary School, 4601 N. Horizon Drive.