Washoe County School District trustees agreed Tuesday to modify an automatic conversion threshold to include an exemption for unexpected growth, which would allow some schools to create a management plan that could thwart a year-round calendar.
School overcrowding management plan committees would consist of the principal, area superintendent, staff and parents. Spanish Springs and Westergard elementary schools—both at 121 percent capacity—will have the option of doing this because enrollment exceeded expected growth this school year. Ideas could include more portables, more team-teaching classrooms and converting resource rooms into classrooms, among others.
Brown and Double Diamond elementary schools will not do this because both schools have already done management plans and are at 137 percent capacity as projected and will automatically go year-round in 2017-18, district spokesman Riley Sutton said.
A school district policy states that elementary schools will go to a multi-track year-round schedule if enrollment reaches 120 percent. This increases a school’s capacity by 25 percent and costs an additional $300,000 the first year and about $250,000 each subsequent year, Superintendent Traci Davis said.
However, trustees indicated there’s no guarantee such management plans would be approved and school district staff said such plans need to be feasible for three years. Converting to a multi-track schedule will be unavoidable in many situations.
“If it comes down to there being no way to control growth, the school converts,” board president Angie Taylor said. “Nobody gets an automatic year. What if 200 more kids than expected show up?”
Faculty, staff, parents and a few students from Westergard showed up to oppose the year-round schedule and asked the board for an opportunity to do a management plan in attempt to keep the school on a traditional calendar.
“Our community needs more time to prepare, process information and plan what’s best for our families,” said Lisa Cooper, a Westergard parent.
Westergard wasn’t forecast to reach 120 percent until 2020. During spring, the school was told in August it could do a management plan, which is generally done by schools near capacity to 119 percent. However, enrollment figures came in higher and automatically triggered year-round school the following year.
“Projections change,” said Paul LaMarca, chief school performance officer. “What I’m fearful of…we were trying to provide input as early as possible…I wouldn’t want to inform people too early as information might change.”
Davis said it seems land is being approved for homes constantly.
“Are we going to chase the growth or manage the growth? I want to do the right thing for 64,000 kids,” Davis said. “Either way there’s going to be an impact but we have to do what’s right for our students.”
School district staff told trustees the district has 238 portables and many take up space on playgrounds and in parking lots. Some portables have been at odds with municipal zoning codes.
Trustee John Mayer thanked those who attended the meeting on behalf of Westergard for being respectful. People who telephoned him weren’t as nice.
“You would not believe the nasty phone calls I got,” Mayer said. “I’m glad I don’t have little children who could listen to the tape on my answering machine.”