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CCSD watch list for year-round schools grows

Sixty-one schools have been put on alert for a potential switch to year-round classes in 2015-16 because of crowding, according to Clark County School District officials.

But the district has a recent history of putting many schools on watch and making the change at just a few campuses.

Last year’s watch list for possible year-round conversions in 2014-15 totaled 65 schools. Only 10 of those schools started having classes over 12 months this fall, spreading students over five different tracks. One track of students is always off, relieving schools of one-fifth of their enrollments.

At that time, Clark County’s 217 elementary schools were an average of 14 percent over their building capacities. The crowding is just 1 percentage point worse this year.

This year’s watch list again totals a staggering number of schools, but more than a third of them — 24 schools — don’t meet the three triggers required to go year-round, according to the district’s own regulations.

District officials wouldn’t return calls for comment on the watch list Wednesday.

The three triggers for going year-round: A school must have an enrollment that’s 25 percent over its building capacity and needs more than eight portable classrooms. Lastly, the predicted enrollment for the coming year must be an increase of 5 percent over the average of the two most recent years.

These three triggers mean a school is so crowded that year-round classes are needed to alleviate the pressure, increasing annual operating costs by $308,000 per school.

However, nearly a quarter of the alerted schools fall short of multiple triggers, making a disruptive and costly year-round shift unlikely at 14 elementary schools: Cambeiro, Dailey, Diaz, Hayes, Hickey, Lamping, Manch, Martinez, Paradise, Staton, Stuckey, Glen Taylor, Twitchell and Tom Williams.

Nevertheless, parents at these 14 schools and the others were put on alert by a letter from Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, warning of a possible year-round switch in the fall.

“School overcrowding is a major concern in many areas of the Clark County School District, including your neighborhood,” he wrote on Dec. 9.

Manch Elementary School parents received this letter even though their school doesn’t use one portable classroom and is only 11 percent over capacity. The district’s 13 schools already on year-round schedules are an average of 60 percent over capacity and use 17 portable classrooms.

The average enrollment of all the district’s 217 elementary schools is worse than Manch at 15 percent over capacity.

It makes at least one critic wonder: Why such a large watch list again?

“This is exactly what they do,” said Victor Joecks, executive vice president of the conservative think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute. “They put an absolute worst case scenario out there to scare the public and start making the case for a ballot question.”

The district is considering a $3.9 billion bond question in the 2016 election, driven by the need for dozens of new schools and upgrades to existing campuses. Skorkowsky started to make his case in his letter to parents of the 61 possible year-round schools.

“In 2012, the citizens of Clark County voted against raising funds to build and renovate schools. As a result, we have no capital funds for school construction and/or repair,” wrote Skorkowsky, noting that enrollment has grown by 750 students since the beginning of the school year. But the state “does not provide funds to build new schools or to renovate old ones. For that, CCSD relies on local taxpayer initiatives.”

“There are no funds available now to build new schools,” district officials repeated in the public announcement for the year-round watch list.

Joecks questioned that assertion, referencing the $54 million in leftover money from the 1998 bond that the School Board decided in October to instead spend on what he called “luxuries.”

Most of the money will be used to renovate Boulder City High School, replace West Preparatory Academy and build a gym at Sandy Valley School. That money was enough to build two new elementary schools.

The district first started talking about a return to year-round elementary schools in 2012 because of growing enrollment. That same year, the district also asked voters for a property tax increase producing $669 million over six years for mostly school renovations and some new campuses. Voters shut it down 2-1, and the district put three elementary schools on year-round schedules the next school year.

“People have seen through this,” said Joecks. “There are some real hurdles, but be honest with people.”

Contact Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @TrevonMilliard.

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