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September 17, 2014

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School Board considers rezoning district

The Clark County School Board began discussions Tuesday about possibly rezoning the entire district to balance out enrollments at schools that are over or under capacity.

The district-wide rezoning would be more complicated than the typical yearly rezoning and is being considered to evaluate whether new schools need to built or if rezoning could solve crowding issues. The decision must be made before the district presents its 2010 bond package for building schools to the public, which is planned for late 2009.

However, during an special meeting Tuesday, the board decided to put discussions on hold until the Nov. 18 board meeting to have more time to assess creative alternatives to rezoning and to get a better grasp on how future budget cuts and economic uncertainty could affect zoning.

High schools and elementary schools in the northwest part of Las Vegas could significantly be affected by the rezoning because of crowding at some schools.

According to zoning maps, Ruthe Deskin, Dean L. Allen, John W. Bonner and Linda Rankin Givens elementary schools are considered as "hot spots," meaning they are 18 percent or more over capacity.

No northwest middle schools are overcrowded, but Palo Verde, Cimarron-Memorial and Centennial high school are all "hot spots." For example, Palo Verde was built to hold 2,700 students, but 3,400 students now attend. If the rezoning occurs, about 300 students could be transferred from Palo Verde to Bonanza High School.

District B Trustee Ruth Johnson said she wanted to bring up rezoning discussions early so the district has plenty of time to develop rezoning plans, should the district choose to rezone district-wide. She said she wanted the board to be prepared to know what should be in the 2010 bond package.

School Board member Terri Janison, who represents District E, said she gets questions from parents about why it is important to fill seats at schools that are under capacity.

"From my perspective, that is what is driving the possible rezoning of the district," she said. "For me, I don't want to build new schools until seats of existing schools are filled."

But Janison said it is too soon to decide on district-wide rezoning because of the unstable economy and projected budget cuts.

"With the high foreclosure rate in my district, there are a lot of unknown factors, so I feel a discomfort level of just moving to rezone seats without knowing what will happen in a year from now," she said.

Janison suggested letting the issue rest for a year to see what will happen.

Members of the Attendance Zone Advisory Commission (AZAC), a public volunteer committee made up mostly of parents, spoke about funding for rezoning. Barbara Moody, vice-chairwoman for AZAC, said that if the School Board moves to rezone, it would need increased funding for transportation.

"Also you have to keep in mind that with rezoning, your public outcry will be tremendous," Moody said. "To fill empty seats would require busing, is it worth it?"

Erin Cranor, an AZAC member, suggested that before the School Board looks at rezoning, it take a hard look at how to resolve "creative addresses" where people falsify housing documents so that their children can go to a school they are not zoned for.

"This happens to the degree that if you are able to resolve it, a lot of leveling would happen, and rezoning might not be needed," she said.

It was decided that during the Nov. 18 School Board meeting, the board would discuss a time line for possible rezoning, creative alternatives to rezoning, the priority of busing and the creative addresses issue.

The board will also discuss the possibility of district-wide open enrollment, which allows parents to decide what school they want their children to go to; the possibility of leap-frog zoning, which is moving students from an overcrowded school to an under-capacity school so that they do not attend schools closest to them; and discussing potentially waiting to discuss rezoning after seeing if the economy improves or worsens.

Jenny Davis can be reached at 990-8921 or [email protected].

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