Whether they have to add more classrooms or rezone the district, the Douglas County School Board was urged Tuesday to abandon the multitrack calendar in three of its elementary schools.
The request was made by a multitrack committee, an offshoot of the Douglas County Professional Education Association.
CC Menley Elementary School teacher Mike Jessup said that multitrack is disruptive, cuts into teaching time, impedes teachers' professional development, disrupts family life and has dented morale.
"Please note how test scores fell the years following multitrack conversion and that they have never risen to pretest levels," Jessup said.
A survey conducted by the committee in 1996 and then again in 1998, showed that teachers were increasingly negative about multitrack.
In the 1998 survey, 96 percent of respondents said the multitrack calendar had a negative effect on the classroom, up from 70 percent in 1996 and 88 percent said the calendar had a negative effect on family life, up from 76 percent.
The calendar had a negative effect on staff morale, according to 94 percent of respondents in 1998, up from 86 percent.
Students enrolled in multitrack schools attend school for three months and take one month off.
Attendance is staggered through the year to obtain maximum use of the school.
Since schools operate yearround, with just two, one-week breaks, they are repaired and maintained when pupils are in school, adding another distraction, Jessup said.
Parent Connie Wennhold said that her son took an exam at Gardnerville Elementary School when it was being repaved. Power lines were broken and water lines were cut, preventing pupils from using the bathroom.
"This is unacceptable for our children. It is crazy not to have GES back on a traditional schedule," she said. "But the biggest issue is safety. It's a lawsuit waiting to happen."
Three of Douglas County's schools run on a multitrack calendar -CC Menley, Scarselli and Gardnerville elementary schools.
The remaining elementary schools run on a yearround, single-track calendar.
Those schools operate on the same calendar as multitrack, but they are closed for the one-month break.
Several teachers called for a return to the traditional nine-month calendar.
Claudia Bertolone-Smith, a CC Menley teacher, urged board members to do the right thing and revert the school to the traditional calendar.
"Having moved from the traditional to the multitrack calendar, what really is clear to me is that it hurts the children," she said. "Everything is true about the hardships you hear. We could do a lot better."
Teacher Diane Mitchell said the school district has lost good teachers because of their inability to cope with multitrack.
School district officials did not respond to the requests to abolish the multitrack.
Superintendent Pendery Clark said she would not comment on either the merits or the viability of multitrack in the schools. She said she would wait until an evaluation of capacity and enrollment in each of the elementary schools is complete.
But multitrack is expected to be discussed at the school board's November meeting in the context of declining enrollment.
Districtwide, enrollment fell by 2.3 percent -a loss of 168 students.
Minden Elementary School was the only one of seven elementary schools to increase enrollment this year.
"It will be very difficult for us to grow in the next two to three years," said Rick Kester, Douglas County School District's director of business services.
The school district is in a period of change, he said, and the future of multitrack schools, along with staffing levels and building plans would be considered.