Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2014

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EDUCATION:

Brainstorming to relieve crowded campuses prompts unorthodox ideas

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MONA SHIELD PAYNE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Hundreds of students flood the playground to start their day at the overcrowded, with an enrollment of 1240 students, and also the largest elementary school in Las Vegas, William V. Wright Elementary, Friday, March 22, 2013.

Crowded Classrooms

With barely enough room to pass between desks, students in Mr. Gularte's fourth-grade class begin their morning learning in a classroom of 35 students exceeding the average of 30 students at William V. Wright Elementary School, Friday, March 22, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Converting empty stores into schools would help alleviate chronically crowded classrooms, Clark County School District officials pitched to the school board today.

Other unconventional ideas included building a campus of portable classrooms around a vacant building, shifting fifth graders to middle school and keeping students at home part-time — or in churches or youth facilities — to learn remotely by computers, allowing classrooms to be used by another shift of students.

The anything-goes exercise, prompted by such crowding that 23 schools could be opened tomorrow and each would fill to capacity, caused both discomfort and excitement among participants.

“To put ideas out there that are not fully vetted and are brainstormed is uncomfortable,” school board President Erin Cranor said. Still, she said, “It’s worth it because there may solutions we haven’t even thought of yet. We may have results that will help our students in ways we cannot even conceptualize right now.”

Most of the ideas were focused on alleviating overcrowding at elementary schools, which are 17 percent over-capacity.

Some of the ideas raised eyebrows.

Trustee Patrice Tew shuddered at the idea of re-implementing a model where two shifts of students attend a school - early morning and afternoon.

Tew recalled her child struggling with early mornings, and stressed that it is also a safety hazard having children walking to school in the dark mornings and home in the evenings.

The hybrid school — part-classroom and part at-home on computer — found skeptics too, in part because students might be home alone while parents were at work. That led to discussion about tapping facilities such as churches, community centers and boys and girls clubs where students could safely hunker down over computers while other students took their turn in the conventional classrooms.

The next step will be to determine which ideas are the most practical, said Jim McIntosh, chief financial officer for the school district. It may mean the solutions are tailored to each overcrowded area’s needs.

Still, the brainstorming is a start.

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