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School board makes zoning changes during first in-person meeting in a month


After holding their last two meetings virtually, the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees met in person for their May 11 meeting, which was held in the conference room at the district’s administration building at 425 E. Ninth St.

People seeking to provide public comment began gathering outside of the administration building before the meeting began. The conference room is smaller than the school theaters and gyms the board has held its meetings in over the last year.

Board members heard several hours of vitriolic public comment in very much the same vein as has been expressed throughout the pandemic—people railing on teaching equity and diversity, accusing the school district of “turning out social justice warriors” and complaining that mask mandates are tantamount to child abuse. One woman demanded the school board purposefully and publicly defy Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mask mandate.

The board meeting proceeded in a calm and orderly fashion following public comment, though the hours of repetitive allegations made against the district caused the meeting to drag on into the evening for nearly eight hours.

Much remains in the air concerning budgetary matters for the district—and will remain so until the Nevada Legislature adjourns its 2021 session at the end of the month. Trustees will discuss budgetary matters with district staff in greater detail as the session winds down.

One priority trustees addressed was rezoning to relieve overcrowding at North Valleys High School, O’Brien Middle School and Alice Smith Elementary.

Areas in Sun Valley and the North Valleys have seen significant growth in recent years.

“If growth comes up in an area in a manner that we don’t anticipate, then we have to adjust to that,” said Board President Angie Taylor.

The rezoning will not go into effect until the 2022-2023 school year, but it will impact students attending seven area schools:

  • Alice Smith Elementary School
  • Esther Bennett Elementary School
  • Lois Allen Elementary School
  • William O’Brien Middle School
  • Desert Skies Middle School
  • North Valleys High School
  • Procter R. Hug High School

Beth Smith, chair for the district’s zoning advisory committee, stressed that current high school students—even freshmen—will not be affected by the changes.

“One of the things we did hear from families, particularly in the walk-zone of North Valleys High School, is that they wanted to stay at their high school,” she said. “What’s good for those families is that, even with tonight’s proposal passing, any student that attends North Valleys High School now, today, even freshmen, would be a junior going into the 2022 school year, and that means they get a guaranteed variance to stay.”

Jeri Chadwell
Jeri Chadwellhttp://thisisreno.com
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.