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August 28, 2014

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education:

District could make boundaries apply only to future students

The idea of setting new school boundaries for only future students and letting current students stay at their current schools until they graduate or are promoted may occur in Summerlin, a first for the Clark County School District.

The concept was discussed at a meeting of the district's Attendance Zone Advisory Commission Thursday as it worked to determine possible boundary lines for schools next year in the western half of the Las Vegas Valley.

It's called phasing, and has already been approved by the School Board as a pilot program at the middle school level. At a board meeting Jan. 22, a pilot program at the high school level will be up for approval.

Walter Johnson Junior High School and Sig Rogich Middle School will be the first schools with zoning changes to be recommended with phasing.

Nearly 40 schools in all were considered for boundary realignment Thursday morning. More than 30 were elementary schools, some with proposed changes to accommodate two schools opening in 2009 — one in the north near Hualapai Way and Farm Road, and one in the south near Rainbow and Blue Diamond roads — with others up for consideration to fill empty seats at under-capacity schools and shuffle students away from crowded schools.

The schools discussed ranged from 30 percent under capacity to 29 percent over capacity.

The opening of the Evelyn Bozarth Elementary School in the north has affected the attendance boundaries for Allen, Conners, Darnell, Deskin, Eisenberg, Kahre, Reed, Tarr, Thompson and Tobler elementary schools. Changes to the zoning boundaries for Bilbray, Rhodes and Scherkenback were dropped from consideration Thursday.

The new school in the south — Mark Fine Elementary School — prompted discussion on the lines for Alamo, Forbuss and Steele elementary schools, as well as Canarelli and Faiss middle schools to provide feeder school alignment.

To even out attendance zones, Summerlin schools Batterman, Roger Bryan, Christensen, Decker, Derfelt, Diskin, Gray, Hayes, Jacobson, Kim, Ober, Piggott and Rogers will likely see changes. Bonner and Staton will not see zoning changes under the panel’s current proposals.

An area with 286 students who live between Fort Apache Road and Hualapai Way, and Charleston Boulevard and Sahara Avenue, would be moved from Rogich to Johnson if the School Board accepts the commission's recommendation. If phasing was also accepted, current sixth- and seventh-graders who live in the area would be allowed to finish their time at Rogich, but students not yet in middle school, or who are new to the district, would be zoned for Johnson.

Students with younger siblings would be allowed to transfer to Johnson immediately if they chose to do so under the recommended proposal.

Commission members said they wanted to provide Johnson with the additional students it desperately needs — it's 23 percent under capacity, which has resulted in lost teachers and programs — but didn't want to do so to the detriment of Rogich, which is 10 percent over.

If the School Board approves a pilot phasing program at the high school level, plans for Palo Verde and Bonanza, along with Coronado and Liberty high schools in Henderson, might also be recommended with the caveat of phasing.

There are 300 Palo Verde students living between Buffalo Drive and Durango Road, and Alta and Westcliff drives, who would move to Bonanza. Current juniors are already allowed to remain at their school for their senior year. Phasing, if enacted, would allow freshmen and sophomore students to take advantage of the same opportunity.

Students new to the area to be rezoned would immediately attend Bonanza.

Palo Verde has been over capacity for years, members of the commission said, and the principal has never been interested in rezoning. That changed this year, Sharon Dattoli, director of the demographics and zoning department, said.

Despite a large number of students in previous years, Palo Verde has been on a block schedule, which allows schools the luxury of extra teachers. Block scheduling provides students an opportunity to take eight classes rather than the usual seven by taking four per day on alternating days. Superintendent Walt Rulffes announced in his first suggestions for budget cuts that block scheduling would no longer be supported, saving the district $11 million per year.

As part of those cuts, principals were asked to bring their staffing numbers down to 97 percent. The combination of the two losses has made Palo Verde's principal, Daniel Phillips, change his mind, members of the commission said.

"This is a start," said Barbara Moody, vice chairwoman of the commission. "Both (Bonanza and Palo Verde) principals agree this needs to be done now."

If the School Board approves the commission's recommendations, Faiss students living between Fort Apache, Blue Diamond, Durango and Pebble roads will begin attending Canarelli next year for feeder school alignment. Only 80 students are affected.

Schools in the northern part of the district were one of the most controversial topics, as commission member Gaya Guymon pleaded with the commission to rezone more than 100 students from Rhodes to Bilbray and Scherkenbach elementary schools. Rhodes is the only year-round school in the area. Parents and administrators have asked for years to return to a nine-month schedule.

She also suggested that if the school was allowed to keep the four portables it currently has, it would be able to run a nine-month schedule despite the number of students. Many of the other members were against Guymon's suggestions, citing Rhodes' large number of zone variances to other schools.

"If we just let them do a nine-month calendar, we will probably have kids coming out of the woodwork," commission chairwoman Becky Nielson said.

The changes to Summerlin elementary would eliminate the last cases of "leapfrogging" if the School Board accepts the recommendation. "Leapfrogging" was initiated several years ago and involves students passing one school to attend another. Two groups of students were passing Decker and Gray to attend Diskin. Now, the group living between Spring Mountain Road, Stober Boulevard, Sand Creek, Van Dyke and Twain avenues and Jones Boulevard would attend Gray, and students living between Twain Avenue, Wynn Road, Viking Circle and Arville Street would attend Decker.

The commission will work next week to come up with recommendations for schools in the east and northeast regions. It will reconvene Jan. 29 to review the amended maps. The elementary maps will be taken to the School Board Feb. 24 for approval and the secondary maps will be taken March 3 for approval at the regular meetings.

Frances Vanderploeg can be reached at 990-2660 or [email protected].

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