Friday, March 1, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The Clark County School Board is considering converting as many as 11 elementary schools to a year-round calendar to alleviate overcrowding in southwest valley schools.
The Clark County School District wants to alleviate overcrowding at five southwest valley elementary schools, which each have more than 1,000 students. Two elementary schools — Wright and Forbuss — each have more than 1,200 students.
Next year, the district is expecting an influx of 800 more students in southwest valley schools, putting several more than 150 percent over capacity.
The School District is now mulling three solutions to the overcrowding, which involve year-round conversions and major rezoning.
Option 1: Convert Forbuss, Reedom and Wright elementary schools to a year-round schedule.
These schools are among the most overcrowded in the district, which is determined using three criteria. All three schools have student enrollment that is 125 percent over design capacity, and has enrollment growth exceeding 5 percent and more than eight portable classrooms on campus.
Option 1 would cost the district $1.5 million in additional staffing, transportation and utility costs as well as portable classrooms.
Option 2: Convert 11 schools to a year-round schedule. The affected elementary schools are Alamo, Batterman, Fine, Forbuss, Frias, Reedom, Ries, Steele, Stuckey, Tanaka and Wright.
These schools meet at least one or two of the overcrowding criteria set by the School District.
Option 2 is the most expensive, costing the district $3.6 million in additional staffing, transportation and utilities costs as well as portable classrooms.
Option 3: As recommended by the district's Attendance Zone Advisory Commission, 2,400 students at 19 elementary schools would be rezoned.
The affected schools are: Batterman, Beatty, Bendorf, Bryan, Cartwright, Forbuss, Frias, Gehring, Hayes, Hill, Hummel, Kim, Ries, Rogers, Steele, Stuckey, Tanaka, Wiener and Wright.
Option 3 would cost the district $1.9 million in additional transportation and staffing costs, as well as portable classrooms. Four schools will still have over 1,000 students, but no schools will have more than 1,200 students.
If approved, the regional rezoning would be among the largest in recent years.
If the district decides to do nothing, an elementary campus in the southwest valley may soon hold 1,400 students, the size of a small high school in some parts of the country. To support the influx of new students, the district estimates it would spend $1.2 million in additional portables, staff and transportation.
"Holding off and doing nothing is not a viable option," said Jeff Weiler, the district's chief financial officer.
Superintendent Dwight Jones is expected to make a decision on the year-round schedule options by Monday. The School Board is expected to vote on the rezoning proposal on Wednesday.
School Board members unanimously expressed support of Option 1 because it would affect the fewest number of schools and have the least impact on the district's budget.
"It's a hard decision for the superintendent and board to consider," said School Board President Carolyn Edwards. "The rezoning option … is a very hard pill to swallow."
According to public feedback, parents at Forbuss, Reedom and Wright seem to feel the year-round option is the proverbial "lesser of two evils" when compared with major rezoning.
However, some parents and teachers said they were concerned about reverting to an year-round calendar. A couple of years ago, the cash-strapped district nixed the year-round schedule to save about $22 million.
Critics of the year-round option argued that summer vacation plans would be affected by the year-round conversion. Family schedules during the summer months would be difficult to manage if elementary students are attending school while their middle and high school students are off.
One teacher said she would consider transferring to another school with a nine-month calendar so she could spend the last two summers with her high school-age daughter before she goes off to college.
School Board members acknowledged that the year-round and rezoning options are "Band-Aids" and not a permanent solution. Until there is more capital money to build new schools, there will be little relief for the district's overcrowded schools.
School Board Vice President Lorraine Alderman urged her colleagues to begin thinking about another ballot measure to raise money for new schools.
In November, voters overwhelmingly rejected the district's tax initiative to repair aging school buildings and build two new elementary schools in the southwest valley.
"Now we're at a real tough and hurtful point," School Board member Linda Young said. "We don't have many choices in front of us."