Big decisions loom for CCSD on overcrowded schools

Michael Lopardi

Photo: Video by ktnv.com

Big decisions loom for CCSD on overcrowded schools

CREATED Feb. 10, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- The Clark County School District is learning a tough lesson in growth.

Look no farther than a 4th grade classroom at Henry & Evelyn Bozarth Elementary School in the northwest part of the valley.

"Every time we get a new kid, it makes the difference," said teacher Tammitha Ausmus.

The students are working on fractions but the math is just as complicated for administrators who are trying to fit hundreds of students into overcrowded classrooms.

"For us, overcrowding's become a larger issue because we just continue to grow," said principal Rodney Saunders.

Bozarth has to borrow desks so the students have a place to sit. The school was built about five years ago with space for 750 students; the population now is well over 1,100, the principal said. Teachers worry the students are feeling the impact.

"I just want to be there for everybody and I just feel like sometimes I can't because there's so many," Ausmus said.

With more than 20 years of teaching experience, Ausmus said this class of 38 children is the largest she's ever taught.

The growth has literally forced students out of the building into nine portable classrooms.

The growth goes beyond one school. The district's population has grown from 309,476 in 2009 to 314,643 in 2013. A map provided by the district shows which schools throughout the valley are more than 25-percent over capacity.

Parents are frustrated and worried.

"The teachers here can't give their attention to the kids that really need it because of the overcrowding," said parent Dora Lee.

"I think my only option is to go to a magnet school, a charter school or a private school," said parent Jodi Sckalor.

CCSD has several options to deal with overcrowding but most of them have run into opposition.

"This is one of the biggest issues that is facing the district at this point," said CCSD chief of staff Kirsten Searer.

The district is considering rezoning 17 schools to spread out students but opponents don't want their kids moved to other buildings. A total of 39 schools are under consideration for year round schools but opponents don't like the schedule. Taxpayers could vote to pay more for new schools but a ballot measure to do so hasn't passed in more than a decade.

"We can't keep doing this sort of band-aid solutions for our overcrowding, especially if we continue to see the kind of growth we're seeing," Searer said.

In 1998, voters approved a $4.9 billion bond for 101 new schools. Most of that money has been spent. The district could propose a similar measure; trustee Patrice Tew said that's not a matter of it, but when.

"We need new seats," Tew said. "We need greater space for these kids."

Maps from the district show more new homes are planned or under construction in the northwest and southwest portions of the valley outside of the 215 beltway. New homes mean new students.

"I don't feel like I get to work with everybody as much as I want to and that's what my job is," Ausmus said.

The superintendent will decide on year round schools and the board of trustees will make the call on rezoning. Both of those decisions are expected by the end of February.

Searer cautioned that even if your school doesn't fall into one of the two categories this year, it could make the list next year.

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