Carson City schools committee examines potential Snyder property uses
A citizens committee is considering potential uses of the 1600 Snyder Ave., property and providing input on the prospective investment for the Carson City School District.
Superintendent Richard Stokes convened a working group of 10 current or former school district staff and community members and held the first of three meetings Wednesday. The purpose is to gauge general feedback on how the former Capital Christian site would best serve Carson City’s expected growth as the district runs out of classroom space.
Stokes also invited local architect Darrin Berger of Carson City firm Berger Hannafin Architecture to assist. Berger was tasked with creating conceptual designs as district staff decides how to develop the site into an elementary, middle or high school site if it proceeds with the purchase.
All of the committee members, with one absent Wednesday, shared they have children in the school system and have ties to the district or to Carson City. They come from diverse backgrounds within the school district or represent the arts, state government, local nonprofits, the health care industry or are stay-at-home parents.
The group is part of the district’s 90-day feasibility study, a condition of the district’s letter of intent to explore the purchase of the property.
Stokes opened Wednesday’s meeting with an overview to the committee about the site and where the district is in its appraisal process and feasibility study. He asked members to consider the district’s biggest needs and to provide their input, encouraging them to think creatively to improve Carson City’s educational system. Ideas ranged from more high school classes, including electives, foreign languages and Advanced Placement courses, to changing the district’s zoning and providing more venues for concerts or performing arts.
“The reality is anything with the property seems like a Band-aid and not any longterm fix,” according to Jason Luis, a hearing officer with the state of Nevada who has two daughters in the district. “You have to look at the future … and everything else seems like a quick fix,” if the district is seeking to address its burgeoning capacities at the middle schools.
Janie Davis, a stay-at-home mother with four children, said Carson Middle School has too many students. She added she worries one of her children, who doesn’t even have a locker at CMS because it’s overcrowded, often suffers a sore back because she continuously totes around all her books and equipment in her backpack.
“It’s always a stressful time,” Davis said. “You never knew what you were going to get, and you’d have 25 kids all at different reading levels. What if you put sixth grade back in elementary school? Then you’d have seventh and eighth grade in middle school.”
But even as committee members had questions about what the property could become, they agreed few options in Carson City likely existed elsewhere for the district to develop a new site or purchase a similar building that would accommodate the district’s needs as 1600 Snyder Ave. could now — or for the price at which it’s available, which is $5.67 million according to the latest letter of intent. Officials also would pay $50,000 in earnest money.
Committee member Martha Wise, a case manager with Carson-Tahoe Health, asked whether this is a quick-fix type of solution for educational and broader community needs.
“Is this a wicked cool addition to the (bond) money that we’re going to get in addition to the money that we’re going to spend to make Eagle Valley (Middle School) greater and to do those kinds of things?” she said. “Or is this something that’s like a diamond in the rough that we can use for that dedicated arts space?”
Berger noted the property is an “insane bargain” considering the buildings come with its infrastructure already intact, utilities and all on 43,000 square feet of land.
Allen Gosselin, who formerly managed the district’s Race to the Top grant and has two children with one at Carson Middle School, summed up the conversation at the end of the meeting.
“There are a lot of questions, but value is not a question,” Gosselin said.
A.J. Feuling, the district’s fiscal director who will be joining the committee next Wednesday to provide a breakdown of the school district’s difficulties with school capacity, told the Appeal the district has reached its physical limitations. Recently, he presented some of Carson City’s challenges with school classroom capacity to the district’s Board of Trustees even as early enrollment counts for day six at the start of this school year were down for several sites, but those counts have changed since day 13 of the 2019-20 school year.
Elementary schools, Feuling said Friday, aren’t allowed to place more students and desks into instructional classrooms due to code restrictions.
“In the traditional classroom, you can’t necessarily think we can make this work … so your option is to make classrooms portable,” Feuling said.
The community largely has resisted portables and the district has been working to rid itself of those structures now with about two remaining after a decade-long effort.
Feuling said as of day 13, the middle schools are showing the district is down by 35 students at the elementary school level, up by 31 students in middle school and up by 18 students at the high school level. Carson Middle School remains above capacity and Eagle Valley Middle is near capacity, and it’s impacting the schools, Feuling said.
“It’s really an issue of affordable housing; it’s difficult for younger families because of the price of housing,” he said.
This upcoming Wednesday, the committee will meet at the property to tour the facility. Stokes and district staff will show the committee the exterior of the property, the buildings’ amenities and the committee will have an opportunities to assess its acreage, parking availability and proximity to the Northern Nevada Correctional Facility. On Sept. 18, they’ll reconvene at the district office to conclude as a committee and provide their final input to Stokes.