It's the first year Leslie Peters is teaching a combination fourth-grade/fifth-grade class at Sutro Elementary School.
"Until they build a third (elementary) school in Dayton, we don't have a lot of room for classes," she said. "So in order to not have large classes, we did a combination class to alleviate some of that."
As a result, there are four-and-a-half fourth grades and three-and-a-half fifth grades at the elementary school that had an enrollment increase of 26 students this year, nearly a 5 percent jump.
That's slightly behind the Lyon County School District as a whole, which, based on preliminary numbers from count day, experienced an enrollment growth of 5.8 percent.
That's actually a drop in growth from last year when enrollment increased by 6.4 percent. The Lyon County School District has grown 69 percent since the 1994-95 school year, according to Lyon County School District Comptroller Wade Johnson.
To help meet the growth, plans for at least two new elementary schools are underway with existing bond money. A new elementary school in Dayton should open in the 2007-08 school year, and construction on a another in Fernley just began and should open next year.
This year's enrollment in the district, which has schools in Dayton, Fernley, Silver Springs, Smith Valley and Yerington, is 8,684 - a growth of 494 students from last year's count of 8,190, which includes several students at Western Nevada Regional Youth Center. This year's count does not yet include those numbers.
"Just looking from what I can see here, (growth in Lyon County) is across the board, except probably in Silver Springs and Smith Valley," said Suzanne Johnson, purchasing agent for the school district. She is working to finalize enrollment numbers before turning them into the state.
Wade Johnson underestimated the district's budget by 298.6 students - a weighted enrollment which accounts for various nuances - which means the county will receive more money than expected. He expected the enrollment to be slightly over what was calculated, but not by this much.
"We budget conservatively here," he said. "We don't want to be in a position to cut budgets and lose people. We always take the low estimate."
In the nearby counties of Douglas, Storey and Carson City, enrollment dropped. To the north, the Washoe County School District, saw only a little growth - about one-fifth of 1 percent. That budget was calculated on a larger enrollment, which could lead to cuts in the district's staff or programs.
"We suspect (our enrollment is increasing) because the housing market in Reno is so expensive," Wade Johnson said. "Fernley is going up considerably too. The housing prices in Fernley went up some 30 percent but it's still below the Reno market.
"People are very transient. With the increase in fuel, are those families that commute still going to want to continue to move into Fernley and commute to the Reno area?"
Solutions to the increase in enrollment are the hiring of more teachers and more combination classes. In her combination class at Sutro Elementary School, Peters is finding many blessings.
"Lots of times the fifth-grade students help if the fourth-graders have a question," she said. "It hasn't been a negative thing. The students I have in both grades range from those who have special-ed services all the way through to gifted and talented. It's really heterogeneous. That just makes it that much better."
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at email@example.com or 881-1219.
Dayton-area school enrollment
Last Year This Year
Dayton Elementary School: 540 551
Sutro Elementary School: 537 563
Dayton Intermediate School: 592 622
Dayton High School: 661 730
Overall increase in Dayton schools: 136 students, 5.5 percent increase
A look at recent enrollment growth:
2005-06: 5.8 percent 2004-05: 6.4 percent
2003-04: 5.7 percent 2002-03: 3.1 percent
2001-02: 5.7 percent 2001-02: 1.9 percent