Three crowded southwest schools set for year-round schedules

Forbuss, Reedom and Wright elementary schools will move to year-round schedules in the fall to deal with crowding, Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones decided Friday afternoon.

“Students thrive best when they’re in stable educational environments,” said Jones, who promised not to rezone the schools for at least a few years, which was the other change under consideration. “We wanted to take great care not to move mass amounts of students.”

The three southwest valley campuses are the most crowded among the district’s 217 elementary schools. On average, elementary schools are teaching 10 percent more students than the buildings were constructed to hold.

Southwest schools are particularly crowded, however, with the three schools going year-round each teaching about 1,200 students. That exceeds their enrollment capacities by 50 percent.

Although just 6 years old, Forbuss is the worst off, with 18 portable classrooms, a portable bathroom and portable kitchen. But Principal Shawn Paquette is looking forward to returning to a year-round schedule, which the school near Fort Apache and Blue Diamond roads was on until the 2010-11 academic year.

The new schedule will put students on five different tracks, enabling the school to take up to 1,500 students, Paquette said. At least one track — or 20 percent of students — will be on break at all times, and all students still will have a summer break for August, he said.

Many of the vocal Forbuss parents are relieved that the district chose the year-round schedule over rezoning hundreds of their children to different schools, according to their testimony to Clark County School Board, the district’s Attendance Zone Advisory Commission and Principal Paquette.

“Families bond with their school. It’s just natural,” Paquette said.

But the devil will be in the details as families jockey for tracks, said School Board President Carolyn Edwards during a Thursday meeting where members heard possible “Band-Aid” solutions to school crowding.

She emphasized that the district needs to hold to its new policy, giving track preference to students whose siblings attend nine-month schools.

Those children need to come before the “PTA president and teachers’ children,” she said.

There is also the cost.

Each year-round elementary school costs about $308,000 more annually to operate because of increased utilities, transportation and staffing costs, district Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler said.

“There’s definitely a cost,” Paquette said.

That is largely why the district weaned what were 76 schools off the year-round schedule in 2009-10 as new schools came online in the southwest valley.

But there is also a benefit of year-round schedules, Paquette said. Academics improve because students don’t regress during a three-month summer break.

“In the summer, they shut down,” said Paquette, noting that the longest break during a year-round schedule is four weeks in August.

Reedom is near Mountains Edge Parkway and Buffalo Drive. Wright is near Gomer Road and Durango Drive.

Though nearby elementary schools won’t be shifting to year-round schedules yet, they’re still crowded and may be subject to rezoning this summer.

The School Board will consider that matter Wednesday.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.