Boards talk challenge of school growth in Carson City

The joint meeting Thursday between the Carson City School Board and the Carson City Board of Supervisors.

The joint meeting Thursday between the Carson City School Board and the Carson City Board of Supervisors.

Cities want to grow — bring people to town, improve the economy, and develop a vibrant community.

But that creates a problem for schools, which must find a place for all those new students.

In Carson City, the problem is two-fold: student population growth isn’t spread evenly among the elementary schools, and the district may not have money available to build a new elementary school before it’s needed.

During a joint meeting Thursday between the Carson City School Board and the Carson City Board of Supervisors, officials discussed the problem of fitting new students — wherever they live — in existing schools.

Andrew Feuling, the school district’s director of fiscal services, presented projections on student growth over the next five to 10 years based on anticipated construction.

Those projections illustrate the problem: for example, the current Mark Twain Elementary School zone is projected to see 21 new students while the Fremont Elementary School zone would see 609 new students.

Much of the growth in the Fremont zone will come from the Lompa Ranch development that consists of 189 single-family homes to be built on about 44 acres located south of Robinson Street, east of Saliman Road, and north of 5th Street.

That projected growth in student population in each elementary zone would be divided between elementary, middle and high schools. But those projections show development doesn’t often spread evenly — or conveniently — for the school district.

“It’s almost like we’re managing six little cities,” Feuling said, referring to the elementary schools. “We’d like to smooth the impact.”

Which isn’t likely.

“Unfortunately, that’s developer driven and not Board of Supervisors driven,” Supervisor Brad Bonkowski said.

Along with spreading the impact among the existing schools, Carson City likely will need to build a new elementary school. The problem? The district may not have the money available before the school is needed.

In March, Feuling said the district could issue bonds again in 2021 or 2022 for about $20 million. That may be enough to cover construction but it wouldn’t be enough to cover construction and the purchase of the land, if that’s necessary.

If the district can build, the new school wouldn’t be ready to accept students before the 2022-23 school year, which would be within the five-year window officials at the meeting agreed a new school likely will be needed.

After that, the next window for building a school would be 2028-29.

“That likely would be too late,” Feuling said.

To ease the burden, the district has limited options. One of them is rezoning the elementary schools to help spread the impact, but rezoning often is contentious.

“School zones are not drawn in a way where it is easy to pinpoint where people are going to go,” Feuling said.

Also during Thursday’s meeting, the board heard updates on:

Legislation affecting the city and the school district in the recently-completed session of the Nevada Legislature;

Mobile Makerspace at the Carson City Library;

A potential pre-kindergarten program partnership between the district and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Nevada. School officials expect to hear next week if they’ll receive a state grant to start the program;

The Western Nevada College Jump Start Program in Carson City.


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