Bursting At The Seams

Because of overcrowding, a computer lab at Brown Elementary has been relocated to a hallway, with a plastic tarp being used as a classroom "wall."
Credit Anh Gray

Most schools across Washoe County are hitting or exceeding capacity despite serious efforts like re-purposing space (check out the ad-hoc computer lab on the left), adding lunch periods, and co-teaching so that class sizes can be bigger. 

Pretty soon, there will be even more kids to serve as Tesla and other companies flock to Northern Nevada .

On top of that, state lawmakers just approved more than a billion dollars in tax hikes, mostly for education. But get this--none of that money will cover capital needs. 

For all of these reasons, KUNR has been reaching out to teachers, parents, administrators, lawmakers, and community members for a series of in-depth stories on the overcrowding crisis in Washoe County schools.

Anh Gray

For the last dozen years, Washoe County voters rejected all education ballot measures. That streak came to an end yesterday when WC-1, the initiative to hike the sales tax to fund school infrastructure projects, passed.

One more Washoe County School Board seat is going on the November ballot, creating a total of five open positions.  

Business and construction are booming in Reno, and that means even more students for the already-overcrowded Washoe County School District. In the latest installment in our Bursting At The Seams series, we break down the complex relationship between economic development and local schools.

    

Each new home built in Washoe County generates a certain amount of capital improvement funds for the school district. But spokesman Riley Sutton says when you do the math, the numbers don't add up.

Alexa Ard

All this week, Reno Public Radio has been examining overcrowding in Washoe County Schools for our series Bursting At The Seams. So far, we've talked a lot about the problem; we turn now to one possible solution: a potential ballot question that would ask voters to approve tax hikes for school infrastructure.

To learn more about that uphill battle, our News Director Michelle Bliss spoke to Tray Abney. He's with the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce, which sits on the local committee in charge of that ballot question. 

Julia Ritchey

 Washoe County voters haven't approved new school funding since 2002, and that bond expired three years ago. Without enough money to build new schools or fix old ones, the district will be at the mercy of voters yet again next November. As we continue our Bursting at the Seams series, Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey examines this imminent funding crisis.

At the end of the last legislative session, Governor Brian Sandoval passed a $1 billion tax package, the biggest tax hike in state history, to fund sweeping education reforms — but with one noticeably absent component.

Alexa Ard

Much of the debate around overcrowding in Washoe County schools has centered on the idea of shifting to a year-round schedule, also known as multi-track. But for high schools and most middle schools, even that solution won't work. Reno Public Radio’s Amy Westervelt has the story for our series Bursting At The Seams.

Washoe County high schools that are exceeding their capacity, of which there are already seven, have various schedule constraints that take year-round school off the table.

Board Delays Year-Round Switch For Packed Schools

Dec 9, 2015
Julia Ritchey

  Four severely overcrowded Washoe County elementary schools have been spared from going to a year-round calendar next school year. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports.

The Washoe County School Board voted unanimously to keep Brown, Double Diamond, Maxwell and Sepulveda on a nine-month calendar for the 2016/17 school year.

The move gives school officials one more year to come up with a multi-track calendar that will be adopted by many schools in the district facing exploding student growth.

Julia Ritchey

Editor's Note: This story won an Associated Press Television and Radio Association (APTRA) award for best use of sound in a hard news story in 2015. Learn more

The Washoe County School District is facing an overcrowding crisis — with a majority of its schools at or over capacity. As we continue our Bursting at the Seams series, Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey visits Double Diamond Elementary to experience what it’s like as a student in a jam-packed school.