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Federal grant to help ease crowding at Clark County schools

The Clark County School District plans to use a federal grant to hold down class sizes in grades 6-12, expanding classes by two students instead of three for the 2011-12 school year, district officials said Thursday.

The average class size would be 34 students per teacher next year instead of 35 as previously announced.

School officials said they hope principals can retain about 130 teaching positions, or about one to two teachers per middle school and high school, and restore some performing arts and foreign language electives that were on the chopping block.

“This was really good news,” Trustee Lorraine Alderman said at a Thursday meeting where the plan was unveiled.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler explained that the district had $19 million remaining from a $54 million federal economic stimulus Education Jobs grant that was to be spent over two years.

Of that money, $9 million will go to hold down class sizes while $6 million will go for about 200 school support staff positions that otherwise would be cut.

District officials have not determined how to spend the remaining $4 million.

While board members said they are grateful, Trustee Chris Garvey noted that the temporary funding is a “short-term life preserver.”

Garvey urged the public to lobby the Legislature and Gov. Brian Sandoval to increase K-12 funding.

School officials expect a $407 million budget shortfall next year because of reduced state support and declining revenue from local property and sales taxes.

Clad in union red T-shirts, members of the Education Support Employees Association picketed the meeting to protest budget reductions, which include an overall employee compensation reduction of eight percent next year.

Jason White, a school bus driver, complained to the board that he already makes ends meet by sharing an apartment with seven roommates and getting groceries from a food bank.

“You’re really picking on people low on the food chain,” said John Carr, president of the union for school support staff.

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@reviewjournal.com or 702-374-7917.

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