With nearly 8,000 students, Carson City has one of the larger school districts in the state, but nearly half of the students there live below the federal poverty line. That can present a real challenge for educators in Nevada's capital city. KUNR's Paul Boger spoke with Carson City School Superintendent Richard Stokes about the challenges and opportunities facing the district.
“50 percent of our students actually live below the federal poverty line," Stokes said. "When those kids are coming to school and maybe they haven't had breakfast or they're not going to have lunch or maybe they didn't have dinner two nights ago, most [of those] kids have a challenge when it comes to doing schoolwork. I mean, if your physical basic needs aren’t being taken care of, or maybe not enough, they're going to have a hard time settling into learning algebra, for example.”
To further complicate matters, Carson City has, in the past, also had issues with hiring enough qualified teachers to serve its growing community. To address that shortage, Stokes is hoping a relatively new program aimed at introducing high school students to the teaching profession might help bring more college graduates back in the future.
“We still have some vacancies. Those vacancies tend to be in some of our are highly sought after positions, like special education," said Stokes. "[There are a] couple of interesting things that have happened here in our school district. We had two teachers at Carson High School several years ago who decided to do something about that teacher shortage. They started taking interested students at the high school level and they actually created the dual credit class with the University of Nevada, Reno," he explained.
Basically, the dual credit class at UNR allows juniors and seniors at Carson High School take a class to learn more about what it's actually like to be a teacher. The most recent class has 34 students.