Four of Nevada’s Washoe County School District schools are overcrowded, and this week a decision was made to either put their students into year-round classes next school year or put off the change until 2017-2018.
A year-round school would split students among four distinct tracks. One of the tracks is always on a break, and that allows the school to hold more students.
The schools, Brown, Double Diamond, Maxwell, and Sepulveda, are in desperate need of space. Altogether, the schools are teaching 658 more students than their schools were built to hold. Unfortunately, the crowding is expected to get worse based on the projected numbers of businesses and new developments being added to the area.
The Reno Gazette-Journal’s Trevon Milliard writes that with more students projected to be joining these campuses, year-round school is inevitable. But Superintendent Traci Davis would like to see the schools be given one more year of the traditional nine-month schedule and go to a year-round system in 2017-2018.
Operating the schools year-round will cost approximately $250,000 more for each school, which comes to $1 million in yearly costs for all four schools. If the schools stay on a nine-month schedule, they will need $600,000 to purchase portable classrooms at two of the schools and additional costs for staffing, transportation, and other necessities.
One of the schools is almost 44% above its student capacity and has ten portable classrooms. Some rooms house two classes and their teachers in what is called a “team teaching” configuration.
But the temporary fixes of team-teaching and portable classrooms will not stop the overcrowding pattern that seems to have no end in sight. One-quarter of the district’s 63 elementary schools is beyond capacity, with no funding available for building new schools. Year-round classes are the only alternative for creating more space, say district leaders.
KRNV-TV Reno reports that the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees voted to keep the four schools on a nine-month calendar. The four schools are set to move to a year-round schedule in 2017-2018.
It is possible the schools will have to adopt a flex schedule, meaning that starting bells would be staggered to increase classroom capacity by up to 20%.
When the decision was being made, board member Veronica Frenkel wanted assurance that the team-teaching idea and the addition of more portable classrooms would not affect instruction.
Superintendent Davis asserted that school principals would ensure that education was not compromised by keeping a close eye on classes that were team-taught, reports Trevon Milliard of The Reno Gazette-Journal.
Two more schools will also be meeting the district’s year-round criteria by having 20% more students than the school can accommodate. But these schools do not have enough classroom space to handle year-round status, said Paul LaMarca, chief school performance officer for the district.
Year-round schedules are also know as multi-track plans, writes Anh Gray for KUNR Public Radio. She reports that Brown Elementary’s Principal Angie Byran has gone the extra mile to make room for all students and to keep instruction at a high level.
“I always focus on the positive. Our vision at this school is learning through perseverance,” Bryan says. “Our teachers focus on what’s best for kids. Structures and procedures are in place so that when parents walk through the building, it doesn’t feel like it’s overcrowded. Is it overcrowded? Yes.”
Paula Wachsman, a parent of a Brown student, said the children are affected by the crowding. She said at a recent Parent Teacher Organization meeting:
“We have a $120 million shortfall per year for school construction for the next nine years. New development needs to be made to pay for itself,” Wachsman says. “And that’s not going to change without a change in laws, and law aren’t going to change without us getting on our lawmakers. Thank you.”
Other parents are worried about the upheaval that will inevitably result from year-round schooling, such as child-care arrangements and keeping children busy. Officials say the multi-track plan cannot be avoided unless new schools are built.