By Carly Sauvageau
The Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) came to Tuesday’s Washoe County School District Board of Trustees meeting with a new rezoning plan for south Reno in preparation for population growth and a new elementary school due to be built in the area. These plans will take effect in the 2023-2024 school year.
The Talus Valley/Daybreak Development was approved by the City of Reno and is due to start construction beginning this year. While no one lives there currently, 3,000 residential units could be built within the next 20 years. To prepare for the population in this area, the ZAC proposed the board redraw the school zones to accommodate the new housing community.
Within the residential area, Rio Poco North and Alexander Valley Quarry will be adopted into the Donner Springs Elementary School and Pine Middle School zoning areas. Town Center will be zoned into Double Diamond Elementary and Depoali Middle School. Rio Wrangler East will be zoned into Poulakidas Elementary and Depoali Middle School. All the areas will go to Damonte Ranch for high school.
The residential community is expected to gain population gradually, but should a new elementary and high school become necessary, it is included in the master plan for the development to avoid overcrowding.
“This sends a very, very clear regional message to where their kids will be going to school, but it also sets on the record a second clear plan for how we will handle the growth in this area and the future planning where the schools are master planned for, our openness to reviewing the student population and building those schools at the right time,” said Trustee Beth Smith. “I love the forward thinking of this and I really, really appreciate the work.”
A new elementary school outside Rio Wrangler Parkway is due to begin construction with a ground-breaking ceremony on April 15. This construction could also change school zones for that area which has seen many rezones due to its changing population.
Many factors go into rezoning for schools. The school district takes into consideration keeping children within each neighborhood also in the same school, assigning students to schools in close proximity to their residence, creating compact attendance areas so there are no outlying populations, and avoiding placing a transportation burden on families.
Another big factor in this rezoning was avoiding “split feeders” where a student will go to an elementary school with one group of peers and be placed in a different middle school than those peers. This rezoning plan would ensure that south Reno would not have any split feeders.
Trustee Jeff Church said parents do have the option to ask the school for their child to attend a different school. In that case, the district would not provide the child transportation to school.
After discussion, both of ZAC’s rezoning recommendations passed unanimously.
Confidentiality prioritized in employee complaint process
“I want transparency as much as legally possible.”
Trustees revisited a policy discussed in February’s board policy meeting which would outline the process and guidelines for complaints filed by non-union employees. The policy would allow non-union school district employees to be protected through confidentiality requirements when filing a workplace complaint.
Church echoed his concerns about balancing the need for transparency with confidentiality that he had voiced when the issue came up in February.
“Basically this involves an employee complaint process. It has similar verbiage as two other policies, all of which make employee complaints as confidential as legally possible. That’s the opposite of what I want. I want transparency as much as legally possible,” he said.
Trustee Smith acknowledged Church’s concern for public employees to have transparency with the public, but said Church’s recommendation could pose problems while a complaint is under investigation.
Those involved in an employee complaint investigation would remain confidential during the process, but after a case is resolved the results become public records and therefore open to the public.
The policy, after much legal discussion, was passed 6-1 with Church in opposition.
District’s COVID plan approved
As discussed in the last board meeting, Student Health Services presented the COVID-19 mitigation plan for the rest of the 2022 school year, the summer and into the next school year. The plan involves mask requirement recommendations, testing requirements, contact tracing and response to a potential outbreak.
The Truckee Meadows COVID Risk Meter shows Washoe County in the high risk area for COVID-19, but cases remain steady and an outbreak seems unlikely for the time being, district officials said.
The CDC’s newer community level risk tool rates Washoe County in the low category for overall COVID risk.
In February, Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick said the local COVID Risk Meter was developed using criteria that was more appropriate earlier in the pandemic, but is less relevant now with widespread vaccination.
The COVID task force may move away from using the local risk assessment. The COVID mitigation plan was approved unanimously by the board.