Washoe County Schools are opening their doors Monday to 63,000 students as K-12 classes get underway. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss has the details on two district-wide changes going into effect this school year.
One big change is that all kindergartners in Washoe now have access to free full-day schooling. The state legislature approved funding to roll this out statewide a year from now, but the Washoe County School District has decided to offer it at every elementary school now.
Last year, about a dozen schools had to charge tuition, including Spanish Springs Elementary where Principal Jim Verdi says parents were shelling out $2,500 for the program.
"It was terrible," Verdi says. "There were many parents who would like to be in, but if you don't have enough kids that want to do it, then they have to go into a half-day class and really they don't want to. They know it's best for their kids to be in a full-day program, but they can't get them in there."
Another change is that 15 new teachers have found their way into the classroom through a program called Alternative Route to Licensure, which helps people without an education degree earn a teaching license. The program was just approved in May to deal with the ongoing statewide teacher shortage.
Late last week, Washoe County was still looking for about 70 teachers for this school year, but Emily Ellison with the district says that's actually better than in the past and all classes will be covered, though a small number of them may have long-term substitutes.
"There are certified-contract teachers, which are kind of the ideal situation, right? But a lot of our substitutes are certified teachers, retirees, or folks who are in education programs right now and on track to become teachers."
Overall, the district employs about 4,000 teachers.