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School board eyes calendar changes

by Merrie Leininger

The Douglas County School Board will decide Tuesday whether to follow a staff recommendation to take Gardnerville Elementary School off a multi-track schedule and put it on a year-round, single-track calendar, with Scarselli and C.C. Meneley elementary schools following suit in the coming years.

Every November, the board reviews the issue because multi-track is considered a last-ditch effort for overcrowded schools and is unpopular with teachers and parents alike. Director of Business Services Rick Kester said it is important that the schools, once taken off multi-track, stay off.

“The second low kindergarten (attendance) really is what’s driven this plan,” Kester said. “We’ve always maintained we’re not going to take them off for one year and then put them on. It needs to have permanency to it. The order you see in our plan is determined by who reaches this comfortable state.”

At the October school board meeting, the Douglas County Professional Education Association presented the results of an annual survey of teachers and parents on the impact of year-round multi-track. They concluded the hectic schedule had a negative effect on issues such as social development, professional development, parent and family impact, staff morale and education.

The staff will recommend at the Tuesday board meeting to convert GES to a single-track calendar for the school year 2000-2001; add one instructional pod to Minden Elementary School by November 2000; and convert SES to single track for 2001-2002 and CCMES to single track for 2002-2003 if their enrollment continues to decline.

The MES pod, a wing of eight new classrooms, would cost a million dollars, according to staff reports, and would come from the district’s capital projects fund. It would also delay phase one of the million-dollar addition and renovations that are now scheduled to begin this summer on GES because the district doesn’t have the funds to proceed with both projects. The GES renovations would eventually add five new classrooms and move students completely out of the old GES building next door.

If the board decides the GES renovations are more important, they could vote to leave GES on multi-track and approve an attendance boundary change that would move some MES students into GES. Minden now has 42 students more than its capacity of 300.

However, the staff stated in its report that the GES facility renovations could wait if overcrowding at MES could be relieved and the conversions to single-track could be done smoothly over the next three years. According to Kester, building the pod at MES is the key to the whole plan. Without added classrooms at MES, a boundary change is almost inevitable.

“Adding onto Minden buys the time and provides the insurance to allow the other schools to be converted to single-track,” Kester said.

Kester said another key component to the plan is continued annual evaluations to ensure the numbers comply with the projections.

Mike Jessup of the teacher’s association, and also a teacher at CCMES said the recommendation is exactly what the association had been hoping for. He said they are even willing to postpone renovations at GES in order to convert the calendars.

“I think the Gardnerville people understand that was going to be postponed based these decisions,” he said. “The association doesn’t have any problems with year-round single-track. Multi-track is the one we feel has the most negative ramifications on learning. Year-round can have some positive ramifications on learning. It is the wisest thing to do.”

n Middle school boundaries. The school board is scheduled to take action on a proposal that would change middle school boundaries for the 2000-01 school year. The proposed change would move more students to Pau Wa Lu Middle School and take population pressures off of Carson Valley Middle School.

The staff recommended rezoning the areas of Ruhenstroth, Pinenuts and Bodie Flats to the PWLMS zone, which would redistribute about 70 students. The staff also recommended all those students currently enrolled in CVMS could continue to attend the school until the 9th grade.

Student enrollment this year at CVMS increased to 824, leaving the school with “very little flexibility for serving special programs,” according to the staff report.

PWLMS has 758 students after a decline in enrollment this year. The school has a capacity for 950 students.

n Other agenda items. The board will also hear presentations from Coordinator of Assessments Janice Florey on the Nevada High School Proficiency Exam and from members of ProTeen, the group planning a teen center.

The board will also decide whether or not to add earthquake coverage to the district’s insurance package.