Parents Air Concerns At School Overcrowding Forum

Aug 30, 2016

Washoe County School District Superintendent Traci Davis addresses parents and community members at a town hall meeting on overcrowding and repair needs on August 29, 2016.
Credit Julia Ritchey

Parents voiced frustration at a town hall meeting this week at Wooster High School held by the Washoe County School District to address overcrowding and infrastructure needs.

School district officials painted a dire picture of what will happen next year if a capital improvement ballot measure, known as WC-1, fails to pass. That includes more portable trailers, splitting schools into two schedules and using computer labs and libraries as classrooms.

With many of the district's schools at or over capacity, the school system faces a nearly $240 million backlog in critical repairs.

Danielle Pugh-Markie is a mother of a first and second grader at Westergard Elementary, which is overcrowded and switching to a year-round schedule in 2017.

"All the other parents are upset, they're annoyed, they're frustrated about how the situation has been managed for the past 10 years. So we're trying to figure out what to do next."

She says that includes possibly enrolling her kids in private school.

Laura Oltman has a fifth grade son at Jesse Hall Elementary in Spanish Springs, one of the fastest growing areas in the county. She supports the ballot measure, but has reservations about the district's estimates for construction.

"I think it's extremely high. I have a construction background, so it's difficult for me to understand why aesthetically why we need a $23 elementary school, when we certainly can do it for a few million dollars."

School district COO Pete Etchart says they've had to factor in the rising cost of construction and purchasing land at fair market rates.

The ballot measure is proposing a half-cent sales tax hike, which would make the rate the highest in the state. If passed, it would provide close to $780 million in new capital funding over the next nine years.