More than 30 attended Carson City School District’s community meeting Wednesday night to hear its proposal to expand space at Eagle Valley Middle School and address concerns about expected student growth in the community.
School superintendent Richard Stokes recently announced at Board of Trustees meetings that business and residential growth in Carson City and surrounding communities will spur student enrollment growth in the next few years even if it’s slower compared to other counties such as Washoe or Clark. Officials have said the school district must begin preparing for an increase by adding about as many as a dozen students per year.
At the middle school level, the center of Wednesday night’s meeting, parents and community members heard a specific proposal addressing Eagle Valley’s capacity to absorb students from Carson Middle School, which already is using more space than it has. Carson Middle, with a current enrollment of 630, has a utilization rate of 101.9 percent for its buildings versus Eagle Valley, with an enrollment of 653 but has a utilization rate of 89.4 percent.
“We didn’t see a lot of growth (through the Great Recession),” Stokes told the audience. “So in one way, that’s a blessing in that it meant our facilities stayed the way they exist.”
But it also means considering various residential developments that have yet to be approved or are being built now that will house youth to attend the district in the immediate future. CCSD has seen a slight amount of growth over last 15 years due to low demand for more housing or because of higher costs of housing attracting fewer younger families to the area, Stokes presented Wednesday.
Still, the future remains on the horizon, and school district officials want to remain ready for what’s to come. If zone boundaries remain as scheduled with the incoming growth, according to projections from Davis Demographics, Carson Middle School by 2022 would report about 1,284 students; by 2025, it could see about 1,436 students. Eagle Valley, on the other hand, by 2022 would have 576 students; by 2025, it would have about 540 students. The district prefers to begin addressing the inequities now to avoid Carson’s future burgeoning needs.
As an early step, Stokes told Wednesday’s audience, CCSD has enlisted the assistance of a company called Davis Demographics, which helps schools by designing or modifying attendance zones based on size using enrollment figures. Davis uses only resident student figures, however, in Carson City’s Infinite Campus system, so the figures are real attendance numbers and not based on variances. The district also has students attending from other districts or areas, including from Washoe County, Douglas County or Dayton, that might not specifically factor into these boundaries but do count for enrollment.
There are drawbacks, which Stokes explained in a report Tuesday to the Board of Trustees before Wednesday’s community meeting. If the district were to zone based on the new Lompa Ranch development, for example, and the numbers for Bordewich-Bray Elementary School were to increase significantly, the attendance zone would have to be restructured accordingly, Stokes reported to the board Tuesday.
Ultimately, the district is considering rezoning the attendance zones for Carson Middle and Eagle Valley, moving a certain number of students and assets from site to site, Stokes informed the audience Wednesday. Eagle Valley would need to establish an additional 10 classrooms and the associated infrastructure, such as additional office space for teachers and restrooms, to accompany them.
“I can’t show you an architect’s rendering tonight,” Stokes said Wednesday. “What we’re wanting is for you to be aware of what’s going on.”
Bianca Blohme, a grandmother who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said her granddaughter, 13, is zoned for Carson Middle but attends Eagle Valley because Blohme herself is zoned for Eagle Valley.
“I wonder how many parents would possibly option to do that as opposed to redistricting,” she said. “That’s just kind of a creative thought since it’s overgrowing now.”
Blohme asked Stokes and district chief financial officer Andrew Feuling several questions during the meeting, curious about how the numbers primarily have stayed static longterm, and she said afterward she didn’t necessarily agree with the results since she personally thought there has been a faster growth in the local population in recent years.
“But it was pretty interesting to me … and I think they should have added on a percent, at least,” Blohme said, adding she is in support of raising taxes as a necessity to support the schools and local infrastructure.
“I know people don’t like change … but there’s more traffic, and people are resisting the growth,” she said. “But for the division, it’s got to be done. I’m a senior, but I have kids in the system, so that’s why I’m aware of what’s going on.”
The school board has not taken any action on the proposal and Stokes said Wednesday talks will continue for now.
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