Two schools to go year-round

Some parents were incredulous when they heard that continued enrollment growth was expected at Tanaka Elementary School. Their southwestern neighborhood has been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

During a school meeting to discuss a change to a year-round schedule at Tanaka, at 9135 W. Maule Ave., near Fort Apache Road, a father noted his house is the only occupied home in his cul-de-sac. The three other houses are vacant.

Angeleen Turner, a mother, also was skeptical. "I think (school officials) are way off in their figures," she said.

Sharon Dattolli, the director of demographics for the Clark County School District, said foreclosures are not an indication that a neighborhood’s population is shrinking. To the contrary, she said, the opposite is true.

"We’ve found that in areas with high foreclosures, (school) enrollment has either stabilized or increased," Dattolli said in an interview.

Both Tanaka and Givens Elementary School, at 655 W. Park Vista Drive, near Alta Drive in Summerlin, are anomalies at a time when districtwide enrollment growth has flattened.

Seventeen other elementary schools are reverting from year-round to nine-month schedules because of declining enrollment, but Tanaka and Givens, both in high foreclosure neighborhoods, are switching to year-round schedules to accommodate excess enrollment.

It might seem counterintuitive, but Dattolli said a home foreclosure "doesn’t mean it’s sitting there empty. People are squatting; they’re hanging on as long as they can."

She said that in this distressed housing market, demographers are thinking that water bills might be a better indicator of home occupancy than property records.

Nevada was the national leader in foreclosures with one in 76 homes facing foreclosures in January.

Givens and Tanaka are in relatively new neighborhoods that mushroomed with the housing boom.

According to Sales Traq, which tracks property sales, the sale of foreclosed homes outpaced the sale of non-foreclosed homes in the ZIP codes for Tanaka and Givens elementary schools between February 2008 and February 2009.

In the Tanaka area, there were 928 foreclosure-related sales compared with 538 regular home sales. An additional 1,047 homes reverted to trustee or bank ownership.

While not as high as Tanaka, Givens’ number of foreclosure-related sales, which was 268, still outpaced regular sales, 227. An additional 274 homes reverted to trustee or bank ownership.

Because the housing boom was driven in large part by investors, many of the foreclosed properties were never occupied. In many cases, the buyers or renters of a distressed property are not replacing another family, "which would be a zero-sum game," said John Restrepo of the Restrepo Consulting Group, an economic and public policy firm.

The new owners or renters are representing a net gain in residents, which is "putting pressure on the (neighborhood) schools," Restrepo said.

Givens is over capacity by 360 students, Tanaka by 230 students.

To accommodate the growth, Givens has 10 portable classrooms and Tanaka has six portable classrooms. Also, music class at Tanaka is taught on a school stage instead of a classroom.

Under district policy, a school converts to a year-round schedule whenever the enrollment exceeds capacity by 14 percent. Year-round scheduling increases capacity because it allows schools to rotate students on as many as five different vacation tracks.

Changes to the new schedule would not start until late August, but parents dislike the disruption to their family routines. Parents said they will have to find new arrangements for taking kids to school, day care and family vacations.

"We usually go to California to see family (because) it’s brutally hot here in the summer," said Turner, a parent at Tanaka. "Now I’m going to have to walk here to pick up my son."

Adrian Stephens, the interim president of the school’s Parent Teacher Association, said the school has managed a large enrollment for the past two years.

"We want to know what’s different about this year," he said at the parents’ meeting Monday.

Zoning officials said they resisted converting Tanaka for two years to make sure demographic trends held up.

Because surrounding schools are already year-round, Tanaka could become a magnet for more students if it stayed a nine-month school. In a practice known as "creative addressing," families deceptively claim to live in a school attendance area to get their child into a desired school.

Schools stay on year-round schedules for at least two years to avoid "flip-flopping," district officials said.

School Board President Terri Janison said parents’ objections to year-round schools typically go away once they understand the "big picture" of school zoning.

Another complicating factor is that Givens and Tanaka are west of the Las Vegas Beltway, which limits rezoning because officials don’t want children to have to cross the busy freeway to get to school.

As difficult as zoning is, Janison sympathizes with school planners trying to predict the ways of the economy.

"We’re really waiting and seeing what’s going to happen next," Janison said.

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

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