Crowded conditions at Clark County elementary schools will be resolved through three possible options starting next school year: rezoning, using more portable classrooms or going to a year-round schedule.
The Clark County School District’s Board of Trustees narrowed the field of solutions during a meeting Wednesday and said one or more would be used next school year at over-capacity campuses.
Instituting a year-round schedule would only be done if it proves to be less expensive than rezoning, which is unlikely seeing that it costs $250,000 more annually to operate a school that way.
That means the district will probably rely on a combination of rezoning 15 to 20 southwest Las Vegas elementary schools – marking the largest enrollment shuffle in recent history, moving about 2,500 to 2,800 students – and adding portable classrooms to schools already teaching more students than they were built to hold.
“What we’re doing today is a short-term fix” for the next five years, emphasized Superintendent Dwight Jones.
Districtwide, enrollment is 9 percent over capacity for Clark County’s 217 elementary schools.
At nearly 40 elementary schools, though, staff members are teaching a quarter more students than their buildings were built for, relying on portable classrooms and even portable bathrooms to do so.
SOUTHWEST SCHOOLS OVERFLOW
Campuses will soon split at the seams in the southwest Las Vegas Valley, where five elementary schools already teach more than 1,000 students in an area that is adding 600 students every year, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler said.
These schools – usually built for 700 to 800 students – could see even more students next year if the board decides to truck in more portable classrooms this summer.
“But I don’t want to stack kids like cordwood,” board member Deanna Wright said.
The board agreed to cap schools at 1,200 students should they choose to add portables to campuses.
“Any more than that and something’s going to give,” said Board President Carolyn Edwards, who represents the southwest Las Vegas Valley, where most of the crowding is occurring. She recommended the cap.
Forbuss Elementary School, near Blue Diamond and Fort Apache roads, is already 51 percent over capacity with more than 1,200 students and 16 portables.
Enrollment boundaries for that school would need to change no matter which of three rezoning proposals is picked, according to the recommendations of the district’s Attendance Zone Advisory Commission.
Forbuss parents, such as Guy Fiore, saw this coming. At a town hall meeting Monday, he opposed rezoning.
“We chose to live in our neighborhood based on the school,” said Fiore, whose fourth-grade son has attended Forbuss since kindergarten.
“Rezoning is a fact of life in a community that continues to grow,” replied Associate Superintendent Joyce Haldeman.
Depending on which rezoning proposal the board chooses, zoning changes would still push enrollments past 1,000 students at seven, nine or 11 schools.
But some schools do have available seats, which is why rezoning may be the most logical solution, although parents don’t like it, Edwards said.
“Some schools are asking for students,” she said.
About 20 schools are under capacity by 10 percent to 29 percent.
As a surprise to board members Wednesday, rezoning ranked high on the district’s survey of proposed changes completed by 1,860 people Monday and Tuesday.
Those surveyed said they would prefer not to move fifth-graders to middle schools, construct elementary schools entirely of portable buildings, or have students attend school in two shifts, from 7 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The board took those options off the table Wednesday.
The School Board will have to decide on a rezoning proposal, if any, by the end of February after two required meetings to gather parents’ input.
The district will notify affected families of those meetings.
THREE REZONING PROPOSALS
Proposal 1 would affect the smallest number of elementary schools and change zoning for Batterman, Bendorf, Diskin, Forbuss, Frias, Gray, Hayes, Kim, Reedom, Ries, Rogers, Steele, Stuckey, Tanaka and Wright.
Proposal 2 would affect all schools in Proposal 1 and also Hill and Wiener elementary schools.
Proposal 3 would affect the most schools, including all of those in Proposal 1, except for Diskin, and also Beatty, Bryan, Cartwright, Gehring, Hill, Wiener and Hummel.
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@
reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.