By Carla O’Day
Elementary schools expected next year to be near capacity and over capacity, yet below an enrollment threshold that would trigger year-round classes, will be addressed with portables and other methods, Washoe County School District trustees agreed Tuesday.
New overcrowding management plans submitted by 13 schools will collectively cost the district $956,000, most of it coming from bond revenue dollars approved by the Capital Funding Protection Committee.
Portables, which cost about $333,000 each, will be moved to Booth, Hunter Lake, Whitehead and Winnemucca elementary schools. There are currently 238 portables district-wide.
Alice Smith Elementary, projected to be at 118 percent capacity next school year, requested to go to the multi-track year-round system. Schools reaching 120 percent of capacity automatically go to the year-round system.
Multi-track year-round classes increase a school’s capacity by 25 percent as it continues to operate with staggered break times for four tracks of students.
Father of five Jon Rouse, who has a child at Alice Smith, a toddler and three older children who’ve been through Smith, told the board he wasn’t comfortable with changes the school would have to make on a traditional calendar. He walked around Smith with the school’s overcrowding committee and saw there was no space. Rouse recalled the early 2000s when his other children were on the year-round schedule.
It was a lot better for my kids,” Rouse said. “Not for me. Not for my vacation. But for the kids.”
Parents concerned about childcare could look into programs put on by municipal parks departments and organizations, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, Rouse said.
Silver Lake Elementary School fifth graders would move to Cold Springs Middle School, which currently houses fifth through eighth grades and is under capacity. Sixth graders at Lemmon Valley Elementary would be placed at O’Brien Middle School, which now serves seventh and eighth graders and is also under capacity.
Paul LaMarca, chief school performance officer, said children from Silver Lake already feed into Cold Springs and that Gomes Elementary currently sends fifth graders there, so bussing costs wouldn’t change. Some parents even request variances for their fifth grade children to attend Cold Springs, he said.
Team teaching classrooms would be in effect at Beasley, Gomes, Huffaker and Smithridge elementary schools.
Additionally, Taylor Elementary’s computer lab will be converted into a classroom. Loder Elementary’s boiler room will be converted into a classroom and its library will be multi-purposed.
“Boilers were abandoned years ago,” said Joe Gabica, chief facilities management officer. “It’s a reasonable space and we can easily convert them.”
However, not all building designs allow for boiler room conversion.
School overcrowding management plans associated with seven secondary schools will be discussed at a later date.
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Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.