The Washoe County School District held its regular meeting of the Board of Trustees May 26, discussing, among other things, legislative updates, budgetary items and the naming of the new elementary school at Cold Springs.
Government Affairs Director Lindsay Anderson kicked off the meeting with an update on recent federal and state legislative action. “Despite borderline pestering” of Nevada state officials she said, she was unable to retrieve much information regarding fiscal year 2020-2021. Although the state’s Interim Finance Committee moved the entire $401 million in the “rainy day” fund to the state’s general fund, she said, the projected budget shortfall for the year is expected to be between $700-900 million.
More information from the state is anticipated at the upcoming Economic Forum meeting June 10.
The board continued with budget items for possible action for FY20-21. Chief Financial Officer Mark Mathers presented FY21 General Fund Budget updates. Discussing different approaches used by various city and county agencies for revenue, he explained that the WCSD relies on a per-pupil-funding model to provide 80 percent of its revenue stream. Mathers did not want to over- or under-estimate revenue reductions, but anticipated education funding reductions to be made by a special session of the Nevada Legislature.
After a motion by Trustee Scott Kelley the final budget for FY20-21 was approved.
Director of Procurement and Contracts Andrea Sullivan presented to the board on management of the district’s nutrition services program, and noted continuing to seek ways to serve the neediest students as a “top priority.” Providing an “appealing and nutritionally sound program” is also a continuing goal for the program, as is maintaining federal and state requirements and the district’s own wellness policy.
Sullivan repeatedly emphasized the district perspective that well-fed students perform better academically. She noted student feedback in regards to the quality and appeal of the program’s food, including a student food ranking system and also that it is a financially viable program due to its self-containment. The program is not supported by the general services fund, and Sullivan said she wants to “keep it that way.”
An evaluation committee consisting of various entities and district employees oversees the nutrition services program. Sullivan presented the committee’s scorecard and recommendation to award the Child Nutrition Programs Cost Reimbursable Contract to ARAMARK Educational Services. ARAMARK narrowly beat out second place contender Chartwell by 5 percent in terms of an overall criteria score.
The financial implications of the contract with ARAMARK are notable, providing the district with a $1 million guaranteed surplus it can bank as profit. ARAMARK has a long-standing relationship with the WCSD and has increased meals sold and revenues for the past 10 years. At the May 12 Board of Trustees meeting Mathers said the program is in “a very strong cash position” still.
Trustee Angie Taylor described ARAMARK as “student friendly” and said she was grateful for the partnership with the district. After a motion by Vice President Taylor, the contract was approved.
New School Name
The discussion for a new Cold Springs elementary school name was also a key item on the agenda and the School Naming Committee gave a brief presentation to the board. The committee had an open survey from Jan. 6-20 receiving 131 survey responses resulting in over 56 name suggestions, which committee narrowed to 10 at their Feb. 5 meeting.
An additional community survey yielded 6,271 responses from North Valley residents. They overwhelmingly voted for Michael Inskeep Elementary to be the school’s new name with 2,952 votes. Sessions Wheeler was a distant second, garnering only 726 votes.
Michael Inskeep was a local Cold Springs middle school teacher and sports coach for 20 years who tragically passed away from medical complications from a blood clot during knee surgery. Inskeep was a well-respected community member and educator and volunteer firefighter. WCSD Board President Malena Raymond described him as a “very deserving individual.”
The board unanimously approved Michael Inskeep Elementary as the name for the new school.
The Zoning Advisory Committee also presented its 2020 recommendations for new enrollment zones. The 13-member committee met several times and presented the WCSD with its recommendations to establish the boundaries for the new Hug High School at Wildcreek by modifying existing boundaries for Hug and Spanish Springs high schools. The changes would be effective for the 2022-2023 school year.
The new boundaries would reach much farther north for Hug High bordering Spanish Springs for a portion of its zone. It would also alleviate some of the present overcrowding at Spanish Springs High School. Portions of students from Spanish Springs would be sent to the new Hug campus. The new zoning would also allow Desert Skies Middle School students to all matriculate into the new facility together.
The move allows for the Sun Valley community to stay “aligned,” according to Chief Ombudsman and Strategies Officer Paul LaMarca. Trustee Andrew Caudill also reiterated the new zoning would provide Spanish Springs “much needed relief” and backed the board’s promise to Sun Valley residents.
The new zones would also affect middle schools. The district preference is to keep “matriculation loops” closed so that students can attend collectively the same elementary, middle and high schools when possible. Possible rezoning for Silver Lake Elementary School and O’Brien Middle School were also discussed in order to address overcrowding issues at the two schools. Concerns for Silver Lake were extensive and discussed in detail. The board will continue to evaluate and consider future options during upcoming meetings.
Hug High School
Once again, the board discussed plans for the new Hug High School at Wildcreek. The $129 million construction contract awarded to Clark/Sullivan Construction is the largest the school district has ever awarded.
Chief Facilities Management Officer Adam Searcy described in detail the magnitude of the project and the school that will be its result. His presentation included a number of fun facts including: the building will be 300,000 square feet across three floors, have 45 steel columns weighing 300 pounds per foot and will be constructed with enough masonry blocks that if they were stacked vertically they would reach a height approximately 33 miles, 16 times taller than Mt. Rose. The equivalent of eight football fields worth of turf will be laid on the site.
Thus far, Searcy said, the project is on schedule and on budget. He described the project as “huge and exciting” and encouraged the board and public to view the progress for themselves, adding another quirky detail to his presentation—that the amount of asphalt for the site could cover a one lane road around McCarran Blvd. from Wildcreek to Meadowood Mall.
Board members were pleased to learn that 92 percent of the construction subcontracts for the new building will be awarded to locally-based contractors. The Guaranteed Maximum Price contract of $125,490,240 was approved to Clark/Sullivan, with an owner’s contingency of $3,511,855
Envision 2020 Metric reports finished off the meeting agenda items.
Closing the meeting, new district Superintendent Dr. Kristen McNeill once again expressed her enthusiasm and positive outlook for WCSD goals and strategies, saying:
“This is exciting work, and it’s important work. This is the time where the board is going to be able to engage the community. If there is anything this global pandemic has taught us it’s that we are going to have to take a look at things. And some things won’t be the same again.So let’s use this not only as a lesson, but also as an opportunity. To see if we can do some things better and improve our schools for our students and our employees as well.”
The meeting ended with brief discussions of graduation procedures and a “special shout out” by McNeill to area superintendents, high school principals and their students for their efforts in cooperatively ending the school year safely.
Born in 1971, Eric Marks was fortunate enough to grow up in a time and family where photography and literature were normal parts of his life. His parents were always enthusiastic and supportive of his photography as a child, and encouraged him to read and write as much as possible. From 2005 to 2012 he owned an award-winning, international, high definition video production company, and has produced video and photography in over 14 different countries on four continents. Eric majored at the University of Nevada, Reno in English/Writing and Art, graduating with English and Photography degrees in 2013, and again with an Art degree in 2018. He teaches all genres of photography at Truckee Meadows Community College, is a freelance photojournalist for several publications, and offers private photography instruction.