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High school graduations to be held at Lawlor Events Center


By Carly Sauvageau

Washoe County high school graduates will cross the stage at Lawlor Events Center this June instead of at their high school campuses. After lengthy discussion on the agenda item, Washoe County School District (WCSD) trustees voted unanimously to approve the centralized graduation location.

Trustee Jeff Church initially pushed against the $150,880 it costs to rent Lawlor for four days to hold the ceremonies. 

In 2021 it cost the district $120,340 to host graduation ceremonies at Damonte Ranch High School. The outdoor ceremonies required staff to maintain the lawn and to work overtime to prepare for the ceremony, and a company was contracted to provide outdoor seating.

Though holding graduations on high school campuses costs less, it creates challenges with both staffing and equipment rentals, according to Vangie Russell, a project manager with the district. 

Russell said Camelot Party Rentals, the primary outdoor rental contractor in Reno, will be unavailable to provide seating for the events. They’ve been booked to set up for the Reno Rodeo, which starts June 17. Supply chain demands would also push the ceremonies to be in mid-June, similar to last year, which would cause schedule conflicts with graduates who attend boot camps over the summer. 

District officials said at high schools like Wooster on-campus graduations are difficult to hold. Wooster is located directly off Highway 395 and an event like a graduation can back up traffic in the area. Other schools do not have the capacity or location to hold a graduation ceremony, meaning some graduates would not receive the same quality ceremony as others.

WCSD Trustee Adam Mayberry and student representative Victoria Gomez during the Jan. 25, 2022 Board of Trustees meeting. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

“I think students are very excited about having their graduation and graduating in general…it’s just more equitably done if it is done at Lawlor,” said Victoria Gomez, student representative for the board of trustees and a senior at Wooster High School. 

Telehealth under consideration

WCSD is considering implementing a school telehealth program that would allow students to access professional medical services through their schools rather than having to go to a hospital for minor health concerns. 

The program is estimated to cost about $500,000. 

A benefit, district officials said, would be access to health care for students who may not otherwise receive it. They pointed to rural areas like Gerlach, where healthcare is limited, and also to students who do not have reliable transportation to access hospitals or other healthcare facilities.

The telehealth services would provide consultation, over-the-counter medication and some in-person services. The program would also allow more students to stay in the classroom, as they could get treated at school and return to class as opposed to their parents taking time off work and taking them to the doctor. 

Trustees voted to implement a Request for Information, which will take two to three months to produce, before they make a decision.

Use of recovery funds discussed

Trustees also discussed how the district should spend remaining ESSER III funds, better known as COVID-19 relief funds provided to the district through the American Recovery Plan Act. The district has more than $25 million remaining from the third round of recovery funds.

Lauren Ohlin, the district’s director of grants, recommended several revisions to the district’s original plans for how funds should be spent. 

Ohlin said many administrators are retiring in the coming years and most schools have only one principal, creating a need for educators to train to become administrators. Two programs were proposed to reduce that gap. Building Learning Facilitators would cost $2.25 million and would help educators on the path to becoming administrators. Leadership Pathway would also develop and strengthen leaders and would cost nearly $4.4 million. 

WCSD Trustee Jeff Church during the Jan. 25, 2022 Board of Trustees meeting. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

Revisions Ohlin recommended would also address credit recovery among students. Summer school and tutoring programs are in place to help students who are struggling with keeping on track for graduation. Those costs total up to $3.5 million for summer school, tutoring, interventions and intersessions. 

Long-term substitute teachers will cost the district nearly $1 million in the next school year, and PBS’s Ready to Learn program that bolsters STEM programs would receive $350,000. 

Trustees approved the revisions and planned grant spending 6 to 1 with Trustee Church opposed. 

Signs of Suicide program approved

Trustees cited concerns about student privacy, but ultimatly unanimously approved  implementing a suicide prevention program throughout the district’s middle schools. 

The Signs of Suicide program would teach students how to detect the signs of someone contemplating suicide, provide students with adolescent depression screenings, and offer students access to counseling from professionals to help with depression. 

Mindwise, the company that provides the services, would not have access to student data and the program is protected through HIPAA privacy regulations.

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