LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Declining enrollment in the Clark County School District is making it possible for 21 year-round elementary schools to revert to nine-month calendars next year, but the School Board on Friday rejected a policy change that would have allowed all 76 year-round schools to go to nine-month schedules.
Board members were worried that such a change would be too sudden and disruptive for students and staff alike.
Twelve-month schools are so unpopular with the public that the proposal to put all schools on nine-month calendars was supported by 87 percent of respondents to a district Web survey.
The conversion would have saved the district between $15 million and $20 million as the result of fewer work days for staff and reduced need for summertime air conditioning and busing.
The idea was floated as a way to help the district deal with a $123 million budget gap for the fiscal year starting July 1.
The nation's fifth largest school district has 213 elementary schools and is preparing to open four additional elementary schools in August. The addition of the new schools was another cited reason for converting all schools to nine-month calendars.
School Board members Sheila Moulton, Larry Mason, Chris Garvey and Linda Young voted to keep the current policy on school calendar conversions, which is based on changes in enrollment. Board members Terri Janison, Deanna Wright and Carolyn Edwards opposed the motion.
School Board member Moulton did not want to rush the process since enrollment is on the decline anyway. "When we get pushed into a timeline, we don't always make good decisions," she said. "I'm not ready to open that floodgate."
Returning a school to a nine-month calendar would have the immediate effect of putting another 100 students on campus, at least in some instances.
Under the 12-month calendar, campus overcrowding is alleviated by rotating students on different vacation schedules called "tracks."
"I want to make sure everybody understands the repercussions," said Moulton, who has concerns about school safety and school services.
In the past, some overcrowded campuses had to resort to librarians pushing carts with books from class to class because there was not enough room for a regular library. There was even "art on a cart" because of insufficient space for an art classroom.
Wright said the School Board was wrong not to listen to the public.
"We ask for input and then we say, 'Well, let's have some more input,' " Wright said.
She acknowledged that 12-month schools are unpopular because they disrupt family schedules. Kids "can't go with their cousins to visit grandma in California," Wright said. "When you have kids in school, they miss out on those opportunities."
As an indication that no decision is going to make everybody happy, some parents at Petersen Elementary School, 3650 Cambridge St., which is between Desert Inn Road and Flamingo Avenue in central Las Vegas, were not enthusiastic Friday when told about their school's pending conversion to a nine-month calendar.
Don King, the father of a kindergartner, said he doesn't like long summer vacations because students forget too much over the break.
Maria Alvarez, the mother of two Petersen students, said she was more concerned about growing class sizes since classes in grades 1 through 3 are expected to grow by two students as another cost-saving measure.
"It gets to be too much," Alvarez said. "I worry about kids not getting enough attention."
The school district is trying to figure out how to manage $123 million in budget cuts brought on by reductions in state aid and declining property values.
As part of budget planning, the district's human resources department has identified 90 administrative positions for elimination, including 50 elementary school assistant principals and 18 deans and 22 assistant principals who work in high schools and middle schools.
Affected employees are supposed to be notified by letter by Tuesday.
Superintendent Walt Rulffes said he was hopeful some "pink slips could be reversed" if the district finds other savings.
Stephen Augspurger, the executive director of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-technical employees, said there is a consensus among unions representing administrators, support staff and school police to support sacrifices such as furloughs, salary cuts and program cuts so layoffs would become unnecessary. But he didn't offer specifics, citing negotiations that are under way.
Augspurger has sent a letter indicating support for sacrifices to the superintendent with the signatures of three union leaders. He has stipulated that he was not aware of the teachers union position on the issue.
He also wanted to make it known that he would to like to see the five most senior staff persons give up some controversial perks and benefits to make it a truly "shared sacrifice" on the part of all 38,500 employees in the district.
Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@reviewjournal .com or 702-799-2922.