Washoe School Enrollment At Record High

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Washoe County's school enrollment is at an all-time high, up 2.6 percent from last year primarily because of a large increase in the number of high school students.

The official count this year is 60,431, an increase of 1,522 from a year ago. Enrollment climbed about 2.3 percent the previous year.

The biggest jump this year was among the high schoolers, an increase of 5.3 percent. The middle school population grew about 2.6 percent and elementary schools 1.4 percent.

School district officials had projected an overall increase of only about 1.2 percent. But district spokesman Steve Mulvenon said they underestimate the numbers on purpose.

"We take a conservative approach to enrollment projections because we don't want to be in the position of overestimating enrollment and budgeting for teachers we wont have money for," Mulvenon told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The largest high school enrollment increases were at a pair of schools that opened two years ago - North Valleys and Spanish Springs, by 180 to 1,953 and by 227 to 1,776, respectively. Both have a capacity of 1,825 students.

The sharpest decline in enrollment has been at Incline Elementary School on the shores of Lake Tahoe. It has approximately 30 percent fewer students than five years ago, despite numbers at Incline Villages middle and high schools remaining stable.

"What I've heard is that the high price of housing at the lake have driven people with younger kids away," Mulvenon said. "Young families with young kids are increasingly unable to afford the high prices and taxes."

Population also decreased at Galena High School by 247 to 1,688 and dropped at Wooster High School by 61 to 1,471. Galena's capacity is 1,675 and Wooster's capacity is 1,650.

Reed High School still is the county's largest school, which saw a 148-student jump to 2,328 despite a listed capacity of 2,175.

The school district's student increases have been slightly off the pace of the county's overall growth. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, Washoe County's population grew 3 percent from July 2001 to July 2002. The nation's growth increased 1 percent that year.