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School saving with afternoon dances

Teri Vance
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Brad Horn/Nevada Appeal
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Javier Torres, 14, stepped out of the dance at Eagle Valley Middle School on Friday afternoon to hang out with some friends.

Middle school dances, he said, don’t have the appeal they used to.

“When I was in sixth grade, this was the place to be,” he said. “With the eighth-grade girls.”

As an eighth-grader, however, eighth-grade girls have lost their allure.

“They all know us and think we’re dorks,” he said.

But it’s not just Torres who’s changed. The dances themselves are different this year.

Bonnie Preston, student activities coordinator at the school, said past budget cuts, and the threat of historic cuts to come, prompted staff to re-evaluate the dances.

In years past, dances were held in the early evening and teachers were paid overtime to chaperone. At the end of the dances, buses would take students home.

Those costs, along with electricity and other operational expenditures from keeping the school open late, seemed excessive.

Rather than cancel the dances, however, they found a way to keep them going.

“Instead of thinking outside the box, we’re actually thinking inside the box,” Preston said. “We’re looking at what we have to work with inside our school and just rearranging things.”

This year, the four dances are scheduled on a Friday before a holiday break and are held at the end of the school day.

Ten minutes are cut out of each class, so the dance begins and 12:50 and goes until 2:10 p.m. There is no disruption in transportation schedules, and chaperones are working within their contract hours. Instead of hiring a disc jockey, Carson High School students, members of an outreach program called the LINK crew, provide the music.

“We’re finding ways we can be more creative,” Preston said.

For students not interested in attending the dance, other activities are available, from cooking, watercolor and art classes to a computer lab and a woodworking project.

“The students are able to participate in a social event in an environment where they’re comfortable,” Preston said.

Daniel Cihigoyenetche, 12, opted for the watercolor class over the dance, and was grateful for the alternative.

“It’s good if you don’t really know how to dance or if you’re embarrassed to go,” he said.

Jacob Landes, 12, interjected, “Or if you don’t have a date.”

But that didn’t stop Gene Anguiano Rojas, 12, from going to the dance.

“I just wanted to come see if I could get a date,” he said. Up to that point, he’d only danced with friends and cousins, but said he had a girl in mind who he’d ask out “later on.”

Principal Chris Butson said the change in schedule didn’t seem to disrupt the school.

“This week has been a really good week,” she said. “I think in part because this dance was at the end of the week and they were looking forward to it.”

The Carson City School District has been dropping in enrollment since 2003, so it has been receiving less money from the state. A state deficit of $1.5 billion could lead to school budget cuts of up to 34 percent when the Legislature convenes Feb. 2.

“We’re doing what we can to help with the cuts,” Preston said.

But some problems remain.

“They’re playing Hannah Montana in there,” said Desiree Beaumont, 14, in the foyer outside the gym. “That’s like elementary. I had to leave.”

– Contact reporter Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1272.