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District may make 3 or 11 elementary schools year-round

Either three or 11 southwest elementary schools will move to a year-round schedule this fall to alleviate crowding, which has become so bad that 20 portable classrooms are needed at some campuses.

Whether it will be just the most crowded schools — Forbuss, Reedom and Wright elementary schools — making the switch or a total of 11 campuses will be decided by Superintendent Dwight Jones. The call probably will be made today or Monday, Jones said Thursday after a School Board meeting where staff presented the options.

The eight other schools that may shift to year-round classes are Alamo, Batterman, Fine, Frias, Ries, Steele, Stuckey and Tanaka.

The district also could let the schools continue operating without any changes, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler said.

“But holding off and doing nothing is not a viable option,” said Weiler, noting that a mix of year-round schools and rezoning is needed.

The School Board will consider March 6 whether to rezone elementary schools, also to alleviate crowding.

Enrollment is almost 10 percent over capacity for Clark County’s 217 elementary schools. At nearly 40 elementary schools, staff members are teaching a quarter more students than their buildings were built for, relying on portable classrooms and even portable bathrooms and lunchrooms.

Crowding is occurring at elementary schools throughout the district but is concentrated in the southwest, where eight schools exceed student limits by being at 111 percent to 151 percent of capacity. Since fall 2012, 1,138 students have entered the district, and another 1,800 are expected next year in the southwest because of development, said Rick Baldwin, the district’s director of demographics and zoning.

Board members supported changes to just Forbuss, Reedom and Wright, which are the only schools to meet the district’s three triggers for year-round schedules: an enrollment that is 125 percent of the school’s student capacity, using more than eight portable classrooms and having a three-year average student growth of 5 percent. All of those schools teach more than 1,100 students.

Board members voiced several reasons for wanting to leave the eight other crowded schools alone, most notably that vocal parents of Forbuss, Reedom and Wright preferred year-round schedules to being rezoned to less crowded schools.

Many parents of the eight other schools, on the other hand, preferred rezoning.

“We lived it,” said board member Patrice Tew of her own children’s stressful experience of being moved to four different schools. “But we survived it, and our kids did well.”

Making just the three schools year-round creates a complication though, Baldwin said. Families at those three schools may try to move or be accepted into a neighboring but crowded school still on a nine-month schedule. Three of the eight schools in question are already expected to meet the year-round triggers next school year because of anticipated population shifts, Baldwin said.

“This is the beginning of a road where schools convert to a year-round calendar,” board member Deanna Wright said.

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

Jones vowed that if he puts just the three schools on year-round schedules, they would be exempt from rezoning. But that promise can’t extend beyond the 2013-14 school year, Edwards said.

“Every single one of these proposals is a Band-Aid,” School Board member Chris Garvey said.

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

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