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School district implements changes

by Linda Hiller

The Douglas County School District Board of Trustees approved two measures that will result in major changes in at least five schools.

The decisions were made at the school board meeting Tuesday at Carson Valley Middle School. The changes mean the eventual end of multitrack scheduling at three elementary schools and a change in schools for some Valley middle school students over the next three years.

n Multitrack out at GES. In a unanimous vote, trustees approved taking Gardnerville Elementary School off a multitrack, year-round schedule in the year 2000-2001, converting to single track.

The move was in response to a drop in enrollment district-wide and at GES specifically, and was boosted by a presentation school board members heard in October by the Douglas County Professional Education Association. That report included results from an annual survey of teachers and parents, concluding that multitrack, year-round scheduling has a negative effect on social development, family life and staff morale, education and professional development.

District-wide, Douglas County School District, which had previously experienced a steady 6 percent per-year growth, had 172 fewer students than projected in last year’s census, resulting in the changes recommended Tuesday.

“Most of our drop is at the early grade level,” said Kester, the district’s business services administrator. “We are now graduating 120 more seniors than kids entering kindergarten.

Because of this decline, and a capacity analysis of GES in the past two years, the determination was made that the need for multitrack there had diminished.

n Two schools will follow. The board also approved changing schedules at two other Carson Valley schools, phasing out year-round, multitrack in three years. Scarselli Elementary School in the Gardnerville Ranchos, currently experiencing no growth, will be the next one to go off that schedule in 2001-2002, and C.C. Meneley Elementary, also in the built-out Ranchos, will follow suit in 2002-2003, completing the conversion of all Valley schools to year-round, single track. Jacks Valley, Pinon Hills and Minden elementary schools are already on year-round single track.

“We want to transition the district back to single track gradually,” said Kester.

“We’ve looked at it from every angle and feel this is the best for the district.”

“This is a good recommendation,” said Pendery Clark, district superintendent. “Multitrack, year-round is a capacity issue and single track, year-round is an educational philosophy. I believe that system worked very well for us and our students have not received an inferior education within the last few years that we’ve been using the system.”

At each school, going multitrack can accommodate around 200 more students than single track or traditional, she said. When three schools are on that schedule, it basically saves the district from having to build another school.

Kester said the conversion from multitrack to single track would save the district approximately $120,000 per year.

One of the money-saving factors will be the reduction in staff needed at a single-track school, Kester said, resulting in one less administrator per school and reductions in both certified and classified staff. Personnel will try to manage that through natural staff attrition, he said.

n Public in favor, wants more. Though the CVMS library filled with parents during the public discussion period, most simply wanted to voice their support for the schedule change, and suggest the board consider going one step further by reverting to a traditional schedule for all the schools in the district.

Parent Connie Wennhold expressed support for the switch off multitrack, but wanted more.

“It would be so easy to go back to traditional,” she said. “I’m thrilled that we are going to single track, but I’d be happier if we went to traditional. It’s been 10 years since we’ve been able to have summer school for the kids.”

Sandy Wartgow, a mother of four, agreed that a traditional schedule would be the best for families, especially those trying to coordinate year-round family members with siblings who are on the traditional calendar of the secondary schools.

“As parents, we bit the bullet (on year-round), despite not liking it, but we stuck with it and helped our children where they needed it,” she said. “Now I’d like to see us go all the way back to traditional. I respect your professionalism, but I don’t think traditional is all that bad. We want the summers for tutors and we want the best for our families.”

Not everyone was in support of going to traditional, however.

“We’re new here and I want to say that I like the year-round calendar,” said Stephanie Fitch. “I’m a former teacher and I wonder, is there a way to put the high school and middle schools on a quarter schedule?”

n Zone change for middle schools approved. The board of trustees also voted to change the zoning for the two Valley middle schools – Carson Valley Middle School and Pau-Wa-Lu – in order to send more students to PWLMS next year and alleviate overcrowding at CVMS.

This school year, 1999-2000, CVMS’s enrollment is 824 students, putting the school at 100 percent capacity. This left the school with very little flexibility to serve its existing special programs. If the school grows as projected, based on the building of housing developments in its zone, CVMS would be over capacity and result in classes larger than district norms, as soon as next year, 2000-2001.

Pau-Wa-Lu, on the other hand, has a capacity to serve 950 students, and its current enrollment is 758.

The board approved, with one dissenting vote – Michele Lewis, who resides in Ruhenstroth – moving the zone line to transfer students from Ruhenstroth, Bodie Flats and the Pinenut area, from CVMS to PWLMS starting next school year. This will move approximately 70 students to the larger Gardnerville Ranchos school.

Any students who are currently enrolled at CVMS will be allowed to remain there and finish remaining grades before graduating to DHS, said Kester. At that point, Lewis asked if that grandfathering would also apply to siblings.

“Well, if we do that, we could conceivably go clear back to kindergarten, and we really don’t want to postpone this measure, aimed at giving CVMS some relief,” Kester said.

Lewis said she would like the district to consider transportation to accommodate Ruhenstroth parents who will find themselves in a bind when their children go to Pau-Wa-Lu, rather than the conveniently-located downtown Gardnerville CVMS.

“The buses have to go through town anyway,” she said. “I’d like to see an after school bus that would take them to, say, Lampe Park, where a lot of our kids play ball. There is already a bus that goes to the swim center.”

n Remaining additions. The school board also approved the addition of an instructional pod to Minden Elementary School, newly opened and already over capacity. The estimated cost for that addition is $1 million and Kester projected its completion would be aro

n Other issues. In other business, the Douglas County School District Board of Trustees:

n Heard a presentation on the peer court system at Douglas High School.

n Listened to a request by Pro-Teen Center representatives for a bus service to the planned center and approval to make their presentations for a teen center to school parent groups throughout the district.

n Heard a summary of 10-year test results from three elementary school and heard a presentation by Janice Florey of the district’s education services department, on Nevada High School Proficiency Exams in math and reading for Douglas County.

n Witnessed a presentation by a representative of AT&T Cellular, bringing an “early Christmas present” of two digital Ericsson cellular phones to each school district-wide, as part of their Safe School Program. The gift is worth $70,000 over the two year program.

n Heard that talks have begun to create an alternative school at DHS for disruptive students.

n Received a report on the first track break Reading Camp from Cris Etchegoyhen, the district’s coordinator of curriculum, competencies and projects, and three of the camp’s teachers, Judy Hatch, Cheryl Winter and Chris Jessup.

n Decided to table committing to earthquake insurance until the district’s whole insurance package comes up for renewal in August. Board member George Echan was the only dissenting vote on that decision.