Zone boundaries up for discussion by school district |

Zone boundaries up for discussion by school district

by Linda Hiller

Zone boundaries for two Douglas County middle schools should be changed as soon as the next school year to alleviate one facility’s overcrowding, district officials say.

“Because of the large disparity in the two middle schools’ ability to comfortably serve existing and future program needs, the administration believes that a boundary change should be made for the 2000-2001 school year that would increase student enrollment at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School and decrease the student enrollment at Carson Valley Middle School,” says a report submitted at Tuesday’s school board meeting by Rick Kester, director of business services for the school district.

“We know that boundaries should be changed when it impacts student learning, and for the last two years we’ve been looking at the middle school boundaries,” Kester said. “We believe Carson Valley Middle School has reached its capacity, while on the other hand, Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School is under its capacity.”

According to the report, CVMS, with an “ideal capacity” of 750 students, gained 20 students this school year, bringing its student population to 824 while PWLMS, with a “comfortable capacity” of 950 and an absolute capacity of 1,100, lost 31 students, leaving its population at 758.

“Our newer schools, including Pau-Wa-Lu, have a greater degree of flexibility, because they were already built with the resource rooms and technology labs,” Kester said.

Over the years at older schools like CVMS, regular classrooms have been converted to computer labs and other specialty rooms, which ultimately subtracted from the regular classrooms, he said.

To accommodate the 824 students at CVMS, many classes, including special education, have had to be moved to less-than-desirable rooms, according to principal Rita Elliot.

“We had a new teacher assigned to a cart this year, and that’s not fair to a new teacher,” she said. “We also refused several variances.”

n Two options considered. School district administrators looked at two different options for re-zoning, including moving all Gardnerville Elementary School-zoned students, now zoned for CVMS, to Pau-Wa-Lu, which would be in keeping with aligning feeder elementary schools with one middle school.

This option would have moved an estimated 240 students from CVMS to PWLMS, but administrators felt that would be too great a jump for Pau-Wa-Lu, increasing from 758 to 995 students.

The second option is a more modest change, transferring what school officials consider the most logical geographical area, which includes students from Ruhenstroth (currently 54 students), the Pine Nut area (11 students) and Bodie Flats (8 students).

This would be accomplished by moving the zone line north to Pine Nut Road, and could potentially take 70 students out of CVMS and into PWLMS. This second option is being recommended for approval by the administration.

“We would welcome the CVMS students with open arms,” said Charlie Condron, Pau-Wa-Lu principal. “And, we’ll offer them a stellar program.”

n Decision is next month. Voting on the new boundary will take place following a state-mandated public hearing at the next school board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 14 at CVMS. Parents and community members are invited to attend and speak, if desired.

Ruhenstroth parent Vicky Brockhage, who has five children in Douglas County schools – at GES, CVMS and DHS – spoke during the public comment session following the announcement of the zone change proposal.

“I’m here to let you know that your actions do have personal consequences,” she said. “I already have kids on traditional and multi-track schedules, and this would be one more stress factor for my family, if I have to drive to Pau-Wa-Lu, which is out of the way, especially compared to CVMS, which is in the middle of town.”

Board member Michele Lewis, also a Ruhenstroth resident, spoke against the re-zoning.

“As the crow flies, Pau-Wa-Lu is closer (to Ruhenstroth), but to drive there is inconvenient for me as a parent,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense. My student wouldn’t be with the kids he’s gone to GES with since kindergarten.”

“This is not a new concept, but we feel we have no other option,” said superintendent Pendery Clark to both parents. “Our issue is to find some space at CVMS. We’ve put it off until I don’t think we have any other option.”

Kester said administrators were also considering the fact that much of the recent and proposed housing growth in the Carson Valley has been to the north and not in the Pau-Wa-Lu-zoned areas (blue area on illustration).

n Grandfathering in students. To accommodate students who are currently attending CVMS and don’t wish to change to Pau-Wa-Lu if the zone change goes into effect next year, Kester said the district is committed to grandfathering those students through CVMS until they pass on to Douglas High School by 10th grade. After that, CVMS zone variances would be on a “space available” basis.

n More topics. Other issues discussed at Tuesday’s board meeting at Kingsbury Middle School included a principal’s report by KMS Principal Tom Covault detailing three new programs at that school which are aimed at facilitating the district’s new employability competency requirements.

The programs presented include using a new approach to leadership with an after-school Leadership Club, having the school’s National Junior Honor Society students perform their required community service at the school in a Tutoring Club instead of out in the community, and using career futures software in the technology lab to help students think about careers they might want to pursue.

n Earthquake report. Craig dePolo, a geologist with the Nevada Bureau of Mines, made a presentation on earthquake hazards in Nevada at the board’s request since no earthquake insurance is currently being carried by the district.

DePolo is mapping the Gardnerville quadrangle and gave the board good news and bad news.

“This has got to be the most beautiful county in the state,” he said. “But, there’s a price to pay – there’s a definite earthquake hazard here.”

The western border of Nevada along the Sierra, which includes the Carson Valley, is the most hazardous part of the state for earthquakes, dePolo said.

Earthquake insurance will also be discussed at the December meeting.

n Test reports. Revised TerraNova tests results were presented by Director of Assessments, Grants and Projects Janice Florey, who said that the corrupted data from the first tests administered to 4th, 8th and 10th grade students in the fall of 1998 was improved somewhat by the re-taking of the revised form of the tests.

Clark said a meeting of superintendents whose districts were all affected by the faulty tests, resulted in the their considering a recommendation that a fine be levied at McGraw-Hill, the company that publishes the TerraNova tests.

Florey also gave a competency assessment update, with itemized reports on the training, development, implementation and documentation of the new competencies required to be passed by the Class of 2002 and those who follow.

n Home schooling report. Cris Etchegoyhen, director of curriculum and projects, reported to the board her data on home schooling students in Douglas County.

Home-schooled students – 248 students from 143 families –account for 3.35 percent of the total county school population, she said, which is higher than other counties including Churchill (1.74 percent), Carson (1.03 percent), Washoe (0.96 percent), Lyon (2.02 percent), Elko (1.89 percent), and Humboldt (1.59 percent). Etchegoyhen said she still has no concrete idea why Douglas County’s home-school percentage is higher than other nearby areas.

Breaking down the home-schooled students by school attendance area and grade level didn’t show and significant changes from previous years, she said, and exit interviews did not produce one predominant reason given for the choice to home school rather than attend public or private schools.

The implementation of a recently-approved state law, AB 348, which allows for home-schooled students to attend public school classes and extracurricular activities on a space-available basis was discussed by Etchegoyhen, and she reported that five students have begun to participate in activities including FFA, honor band and a pottery class. Admissions to activities is up to each school, she said.

n Public is welcome to attend. The next school board meeting will be at Carson Valley Middle School on Dec. 14 beginning at 3:30 p.m. Following a public hearing on the middle school zone change, the board will vote.