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WCSD considers school closure in Sparks, construction in North Valleys

People are sitting in a cafeteria in small groups. They are speaking to each other with papers in front of them throughout the room.
Jose Davila IV
KUNR Public Radio
Meeting attendees, many of them staff from schools in the area, discuss possible facilities changes at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev. on May 15, 2023.

In a pair of recent meetings, Washoe County School District presented draft options for facilities changes in the North Valleys and downtown Sparks areas to community members. Some include school closures.

As part of the school district’s ongoing facility modernization process, district officials and consultants are leading meetings to discuss changes in school facilities across the county.

Paul Mills, senior vice president at CannonDesign, is the consultant leading the project. He laid out the goal of the process after a meeting at Sparks Middle School on Monday evening.

“If we can use where you have the resources smartly, you could actually create more efficiencies on the operating side to where you’re spending less money on utilities, less money on maintenance of old buildings that are half full to begin with, and have the opportunity to actually concentrate those resources into the classroom, into more teachers, into more programs and supports for students,” Mills said.

There are three middle schools in Downtown Sparks, two of which have much smaller populations than they were built for. All three are at least 57 years old. In the draft options presented at Monday’s meeting, either Sparks Middle School or Traner Middle School would close and a new campus would be built to hold all of the students from both schools. That change would not take place until at least the 2027-28 school year, if approved.

In the years after, the district could also consolidate some of the smaller elementary schools in that area into bigger, more efficient facilities.

The North Valleys area is facing a slightly different problem. North Valleys High School is overcrowded, but not enough to warrant building a new high school out in Cold Springs yet. So, at a meeting last week, the district proposed a host of options ranging from building a mandatory ninth grade center at Cold Springs Middle School to adding a new wing to North Valleys High.

At both meetings, community members expressed concerns about student safety, especially around having younger students with older ones, as well as transportation and building school culture.

Jose Davila IV is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Jose Davila IV is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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