School board hears options for overcrowded campuses

Turn vacant grocery stores and office buildings into elementary schools.

Allow elementary students to alternate days between going to school and staying home for online classes.

Transfer fifth-graders to middle schools.

Start double sessions at elementary schools.

These are some of the extreme solutions for resolving elementary school crowding that the Clark County School Board heard from district staff last week and will now consider.

The Clark County School District is eyeing such alternatives because leaders claim they don’t have the money to build new elementary schools at $28 million each. Voters refused to pass the district’s requested $669 million property tax increase in 2012, and the School Board decided to not ask voters for a bond in November, realizing the chances for approval were slim.

But the district needs more space. Its 217 elementary schools are an average of 18 percent over their student capacities and use 1,872 portable classrooms to get by. Unusual options must be considered, said board Vice President Linda Young.

“This is what we have to do,” she said.

A few of the nine options, such as portable schools, have been proposed previously by district staff over the past couple years. Other options have been used in the past — elementary schools have been placed on double sessions, which bring in two full loads of students back-to-back each day.

“It’s something nobody cares for,” said district Chief Financial Officer Jim McIntosh. “It would be a very early morning for some students and a late evening for others.”

Others options have never formally considered until now, such as turning vacant commercial properties into schools.

McIntosh’s staff has already identified commercial properties near each of the 64 most crowded elementary schools, which are at least a quarter over their student capacities. All 64 schools rely on portables, with Wright Elementary School using 22, the highest number.

Each commercial property would require $5 million or more to purchase, renovate or expand, said McIntosh, noting that many properties would still be short on outdoor space, forcing the district to forgo “some standards of our elementary schools.”

A similar option would be moving pre-kindergarten students to off-school sites, creating neighborhood preschool centers. That would free up classrooms in elementary schools for kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

Another option would bring blended learning to elementary school students, enabling them to go to school one day and attend class online the next, doubling a school’s enrollment capacity while maintaining the number of students physically in school at any time, district staff said. Several blended learning models were suggested Thursday, all being opt-in choices for families.

“There’s no forcing. That’s not the intent,” said Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, whose staff conceived and presented the nine options last week.

The final option would be partnering with developers, who’d build new schools on their own dime. The district could then buy the school, rent it, or make payments to buy. The district has already received such offers, McIntosh said. But many school board members are wary of such an arrangement. It would profit developers but cost the district more than building its own schools, said board member Carolyn Edwards.

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

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