Washoe County School District Trustees on Tuesday approved close to $1.5 million in contracts to J Slash B Enterprises to move some of its modular buildings to schools in the North Valleys and Mt. Rose K-8 Academy of Languages to alleviate overcrowding.
Trustee Colleen Westlake took issue with the plan, and asked if there was a better use for the funds.
“It’s not moving us ahead,” Westlake said. “Can’t we think of something else other than spending $1.5 million on moving buildings? I don’t think it’s fiscally responsible. And I don’t think taxpayers will think it’s fiscally responsible.”
The four contracts to relocate mobile classrooms range from $281,000 to $529,000.
The first will relocate a mobile classroom to Sky Ranch Middle School; the second, to North Valleys High School; the third, to John C. Bohach Elementary School. The fourth contract involves the demolition and relocation of a mobile classroom building to Mt. Rose K-8 Academy of Languages.
Westlake went on to say that out of all the challenges schools in the district are facing, whether they be athletic infrastructure in need of repair or schools that do not have central air conditioning, $1.5 million could be far better spent than in relocating buildings.
“This just doesn’t seem like a fix that we should be footing the bill for. I think we can come up with something else,” she said.
Trustee Joe Rodriguez said due to the quickly increasing population, additional infrastructure is needed to help reduce overcrowding at the school sites.
“This is a bandaid. I definitely believe we owe it to our taxpayers to give their kids a seat,” Rodriguez said.
District officials said zoning changes will eventually solve the overcrowding issues, but the modular buildings are needed at certain schools now until those zoning changes are made.
Trustee Beth Smith said she agreed with the points Westlake made but would still vote yes on the item.
“You bring up some really good points. I’m glad that staff is acknowledging other actions that we can be taking so we can avoid having brand new schools that have modules out in front of them,” Smith said. “Functionally, they have to move, a company has to do this, kids need a place to sit, but [my vote] is absolutely not in opposition to the very valid points you brought up.”
The motion passed with Westlake voting against.
Five-year Capital Improvement Plan approved
Trustees approved the five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to be submitted with the district’s budget plan, which provides a timeline of forecasted projects and equipment purchases.
The CIP does not, however, authorize individual items, which must individually be brought before the board for final approval.
Mark Mathers, the district’s chief financial officer, presented the overview of the CIP to trustees and highlighted a few major projects including:
- Construction of the Debbie Smith CTE Academy High School, which is currently underway with a delayed opening to August 2025. The high school will have a capacity of 950 students and will draw from open enrollment across the district.
- The design of the Central Transportation Yard Improvements project is underway and will be ready for construction in 2024. The facility is antiquated and contains safety hazards.
- A new elementary school in Stonebrook was highlighted to serve the students living within the Stonebrook master planned community off of Lo Posada Drive in Sparks.
- The Cold Springs Area High School Phase 1 plan is on hold as residential development continues to slow.
A new centralized district office building was also discussed, which would contain a new board room for trustee meetings. The current district building opened in 1962 and cannot contain all the offices in administration.
Options include renovating an existing building elsewhere, constructing a new building elsewhere or constructing a new building on site.
The CIP proposal originally included design funding in 2026 and construction in 2027. However, Trustee Smith moved to amend the proposal to bring the construction timeline up by one year.
Trustee Diane Nicolet said she was uncomfortable sending the item back before the Capital Funding Protection Committee, as they are experts in their field who already made decisions and recommendations based on their findings.
“I don’t know how that’s going to look for them,” Nicolet said. “I think it’s important that we address [ central administration facilities], I’ve said that for quite some time. And also that bumps up against my desire to concentrate more on our schools. I’m on the fence here.”
Trustee Jeff Church disagreed with Nicolet, and said the committee members were not experts and they do not do “deep dives” into these projects.
“Some of the committee members are elected officials that have a ton of stuff on their plate and then [think] ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got to go to this meeting too.’ They’re not experts in this, they’re not people that have a lot of time and energy to put into it,” Church said. “And at the same time you have [Capital Funding Protection Committee] members that are in the trades and they bring a wealth of information to that. But at the same time, it’s hard to deny they’re not biased.”
He agreed that the timeline of construction should be moved up.
Trustee Adam Mayberry said he would like to see a commitment to increasing security in the schools before the construction of a new district office.
Trustee Smith said she would “honor” whatever decision the committee will make.
On that motion, the amendment passed 6-1 with Mayberry voting against.
During discussions of the overall CIP, Trustee Rodriguez said he would like to see a focus on outfitting all Washoe County K-12 schools with single point entries for the safety of students and staff.
Trustee Adam Mayberry echoed the sentiment, especially for the high schools in the district. Violence cannot be prevented within schools 100% of the time, he said, but risk can be reduced through investing in single point entry, and by installing higher fences.
“I’m grateful for the work that’s been done, but we have a lot of work to do. But on the safety and security side, it’s as important as academics are,” Mayberry added.
Trustee Westlake said that the athletics field at Reed High School need to be a main priority for major projects, as the field is reported to be so unsafe that other schools and referees are refusing to play or call games on site, creating an equity issue.
On the topic of security fencing, Westlake also suggested that costs could be saved by installing razor wire on top of fences as opposed to dismantling and reinstalling fencing at every school.
“The price for materials right now is astronomical,” Westlake said. “We’d probably need to talk to the community because the aesthetics would be absolutely atrocious, but it’s not to keep kids penned in, it’s to keep threats out.”
Trustee Smith said they could not add specific suggestions to vote on during the meeting, but the Board could request future changes through the Capital Funding Protection Committee.
The motion to approve of the plan with the prior amendment added was unanimous.
In other items
Trustees heard a presentation on data compiled about students with disabilities in the district.
Students with disabilities make up around 15% of all students in the district. Disabilities include everything from autism to emotional disturbances, hearing impairment, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairments and specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia.
The district seeks to keep students with disabilities in “regular” [non special-education specific] classes whenever possible, with 73.6% of students with individualized education programs (IEPs) keeping in those classrooms. Only 3.5% of IEP students are in specific special-education classrooms.
The full statistical analysis of IEP students in the district is here.