Washoe County schools face classroom shortages

Aug 7, 2014

A new portable classroom unit that is awaiting installation at Brown Elementary School.
Credit Photo by Anh Gray

Students head back to school on Monday, but there aren’t enough classrooms for everyone. To alleviate the over-crowding, the Washoe County School District is installing about a dozen portable classrooms at several schools.  

From the inside, the third grade portable classroom at Brown Elementary in South Reno doesn’t look much different than a typical brick-and-mortar set-up.  There are colorful maps and flags on the walls along with piles of neatly stacked textbooks. 

“They're two classrooms in each building and then there are restrooms in between the two classrooms. They’re very nice facilities,” says Area Superintendent Chad Hicks at a media event at Brown. The school is the most over-crowded in the district. With nearly 900 students enrolled for the upcoming school year, it’s at 114 percent capacity.

Inside a third grade portable classroom.
Credit Photo by Anh Gray

Pete Etchart is chief operating officer at the district. He says the problem of overcrowding spreads beyond Brown.

“We have over 180 portable classrooms within the Washoe County School District and this isn’t even a Washoe County School District issue. It’s a statewide issue.”

Etchart says that portable classrooms are not an ideal long-term solution, but that’s what the district can afford right now. One unit costs $450 thousand while building a new school could carry a $20 million price tag. According to Etchart, the district continues to need revitalization funds to update and expand existing facilities.

Just last year, Washoe County Commissioners rejected AB 46, a bill which would have raised taxes to pay for school capital improvements.