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School District Drafts Plan To Deal With Overcrowding

Julia Ritchey

  The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees approved a draft plan Wednesday night to address overcrowding and skyrocketing student growth. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey was there and has the details.

The school district finally has an initial game plan for how it wants to alleviate overcrowding and critical infrastructure needs through the year 2024.

Pete Etchart, chief operating officer for the district, presented their "Strategic Blueprint" to the board of trustees on priorities for new construction.

"We should've been building schools for many years to avoid this, with all this growth that's coming, and we haven't had any money, any bonding capacity, through our property tax to do anything about it," he says.

The blueprint proposes constructing three new high schools, three middle schools and two elementary schools as well as renovating, expanding and converting several older facilities. The plan would also consider switching many of the area’s elementary schools to year-round, multi-track schedules.

Etchart estimates the total cost for implementation around $745 million, that works out to about $103 million each year over the next decade. The problem is that the school district only has a current budget of $35 million a year, so it would be up to Washoe County voters — or the legislature — to make up the shortfall.

School superintendent Traci Davis says the plan is a step in the right direction. 

"I believe that it gives us an opportunity to manage growth, not just chase it,” she says. “We are not just looking at what it looks like for the next two or three years, but the decision we will make will impact education in Washoe County School District for decades to come."

The blueprint will next be presented to the governor's Public Schools Overcrowding and Repair Needs Committee on Friday. That group is charged with coming up with a ballot question to present to voters in next year's election to raise money for fixing schools.

The last time Washoe County voters actually approved a school bond was 2002. That bond expired three years ago, leaving the district without a way to generate new money to maintain its schools.

For more info on overcrowding, click here

Julia Ritchey is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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