The Washoe County School Board tries to cut school overcrowding and tonight the board gave the go ahead to sell $55 million in bonds to build new schools and improve several others.
It took the board 4 hours to reach this decision. And they'll have many more hours of discussion before they can finalize the specific schools and projects for this $55 million chunk of money.
The process of charting the best course for our schools is still very much a work in progress, but at least there is some relief on the way.
O'Brien Middle School is at 120 percent of capacity. There are 200 too many students, 200 too few lockers, and portables serve as makeshift classrooms. But the principal says the worst part is passing times when everyone hits the halls at once.
"They bump each other, they push , they shove - it's also a safety issue on the stairwells," says principal Ron Seckler.
Parents went before the school board saying they want a new middle school in Cold Springs . . . grades 5-8 to alleviate some of the overcrowding at O'Brien . . . and, in turn, at Nancy Gomes Elementary.
Says parent Scott Sarratt: "What we're trying to do is solve two concerns with one stone by getting a school for grades 5-8 to relieve overcrowding at 2 schools."
District officials say the overcrowding directly affects the education quality - and that's why funding new schools and expansions are a priority.
"Overcrowding is not just an inconvenience. It's easier for kids to get lost, fall through the cracks," says district spokesman Dr. Steve Mulvenon.
On the list of projects to prevent that are . . . expanding McQueen and North Valleys high schools, along with building that new middle school in Cold Springs, and an elementary school in Spanish Springs.
But the board hasn't gotten to the specifics yet - they plan to fine tune the projects in January.
School board officials say it's likely the new schools will be built, but at issue still are questions about how big the schools should be.
We're looking at 2007 for the new schools to open if the board moves ahead with its schedule in January.