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Overcrowded Wright Elementary considers year-round option

At Wright Elementary School in the Mountain’s Edge master-planned community, about 20 portable classrooms are on the playground to accommodate its extra students.

Wright, 8425 Bob Fisk Ave., has become one of the most overcrowded schools in the Clark County School District’s most overcrowded area of the Las Vegas Valley. Wright opened in 2006 and was built to hold about 800 students. Today it has an enrollment of more than 1,200, said principal Carol Erbach.

The district hoped to build two new schools to alleviate the problem, but Clark County voters overwhelmingly rejected a Nov. 6 ballot initiative that would have increased property taxes to help pay for school repairs and construction.

Erbach has a matter-of-fact approach to the overcrowding situation, which she said is likely to get worse.

"We deal with it," she said. "We’re going to do our best to meet the needs of our kids. Resources are out of our control, (and) there’s no point of harping on what we can’t control."

The influx of students does not lead to higher class sizes, only more classrooms. But higher student-to-teacher ratios in recent years have also made things more difficult.

"Anytime you have fewer students, you can focus more on individual learning," Erbach said. "No matter how many students you have, though, you have to differentiate instruction."

And the school has done well for itself under the circumstances, being named one of the district’s high-achieving, five-star schools – the district’s highest ranking.

Erbach said she and the teachers strive to maintain a positive attitude to cope with these circumstances, but some practical steps they’ve taken have helped, too.

The school added a portable lunchroom and restrooms outside on the playground, reducing the number of separate lunch periods from five to three.

Traffic in the morning and afternoon was such a problem that Wright got approval from the district’s transportation department to lower the radius for bus transportation from two miles away from the school to one mile. That change has led to about 400 more students riding buses and a reduction in vehicle traffic.

Paul Gerner, associate superintendent of facilities for the district, called Wright "one of the poster children" for overcrowding. He said the school district eliminated year-round school schedules in 2011 because it was what parents and the community wanted. Without another solution in sight – other than simply adding more portables – Gerner said that eventually some schools likely will go year-round.

Year-round scheduling splits the school year into five "tracks" of students, with only four-fifths of students on the campus at any given time. Gerner said it would be a decision to be made by the Board of School Trustees.

"We worked so hard to get off the year-round calendar, and the community seemed to very much embrace (that)," Gerner said. "… I suspect you’ll see some of the people from that community come out and say, ‘Why don’t you just build the additional seats required?’ We tried that, and it didn’t pass."

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 702-224-5524.

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