Lyon County readies for more students

Forget the students - it's the principals of the two crowded elementary schools in Dayton who look forward to the 2007-08 school year.

It's not that the upcoming year is going to be bad, it's just that there's one more year to wait - a last year - before a third elementary school opens its doors in the area.

"We're bursting at the seams," said Nolan Greenburg, principal of Dayton Elementary. "Thankfully, they're building a new school that will help both this school and Sutro (Elementary School). This is going to be a challenging year in terms of growth."

In the past 10 years, enrollment increased from 5,419 students in the Lyon County School District to 8,698 students - a rate of increase of 5 percent annually, and even more in some areas of the district, such as Fernley.

"We get a lot of students from Carson City. We get students from Douglas County," Greenburg said. "We're seeing a lot of students from California. We've seen them as far away as from New York. They come from all over the country and for various reasons. I live in Carson City and I've seen some of our neighbors move to Dayton."

Dayton Elementary ended the year with 592 students. Greenburg said they could have squeezed in more students - up to about 630 - but his ultimate limit for enrollment would be between 475 to 500 students. That's a long way from 1996-07 when there were 325 students.

"I think when the new school opens, we'll drop to the 400s (in enrollment)," said Cheryl Sample, principal of Sutro Elementary School, which ended its school year with 599 students. "I think we'll lose probably 100, maybe 200, kids. It's hard to tell at this juncture."

The 52,000-square foot school planned in River Park will be built on a 10.8 acre-site off Fort Churchill Road - across from the wastewater treatment facility and next to a proposed park. The project is out for bids right now. The name remains to be picked.

"We've been adding buildings almost continually in the district," said Nat Lommori, superintendent of Lyon County schools. He said the board adopted a resolution for a bond for the fall of '06.

If approved, the bond will be driven by growth in Lyon County. A $22 million bond approved in November 2004 is paying for the new Dayton school and the new East Valley Elementary School in Fernley, scheduled to open in the fall. Each will be able to house about 650 students.

"I think it's really great the district has (this school) on the horizon," Sample said. "Sometimes a district is overcrowded and there's no plan in place for another school to open. I think this (plan) makes (enrollment) all very very manageable."

Built on 15 acres, East Valley will take students from Cottonwood Elementary School. Some Fernley Elementary students will then move to Cottonwood.

"Those schools were huge," Lommori said. "They were about 800 students each. That's why we really needed to get (East Valley) open first."

"We're pressing hard," he said about opening East Valley in time for school.

The new school in Dayton will essentially be a replica of East Valley. Even the same floor plan is being used. Fernley has experienced the fastest growth in Lyon County, followed by the Dayton, Silver Springs, Yerington and Smith Valley areas. Lommori expects most of the growth in Lyon County schools to continue in the Fernley area.

About 10 years ago, the district was growing, but there was plenty of room for students. Sutro Elementary had just been built, bringing a second school to the area to accompany Dayton Elementary School.

When Sample started at Sutro 426 students were enrolled. In its first year of operations in 1996-97, it had 244 students. Several years ago, the district realigned zones and Sutro received students from Dayton. By the end of the 2005-06 school year, both Dayton and Sutro elementaries were nearing maximum capacity.

No problem with quality education

Principals at both Dayton and Sutro say education hasn't suffered. Greenburg said the largest problem with a high enrollment is the increase in discipline problems.

"I think we do a pretty good job staying on top of that," he said. "Larger numbers (of students) are going to have that effect."

Dayton has focused on one-on-one instruction in its reading program. The additional staff has kept teacher-to-student ratios at requisite rates.

Sample, principal of Sutro, said high enrollment can mean a run on materials and textbooks. But she doesn't think it's harmed students.

"We've been really cognizant of our growth and assessment data and what it's telling us," she said. "I think it's really great that the taxpayers got a bond issue passed so we could (have another school)."

Where there's been growth

Student growth has occurred at nearly all grade levels in Lyon County - not just at the elementary grades, according to Lyon County Schools Comptroller Wade Johnson.

"It's pretty much across the board," Johnson said. "It used to be that we found that our elementary levels were growing quite a bit faster. It doesn't seem that way now. ... People are coming in and they're not just the young families. There are people moving into the area with high-school grade children."

Even if the upper grade levels become saturated, Dayton High School has room for more students. About 1,000 students can attend, and enrollment for the 2006-07 year is projected at just more than 800 students. An addition is planned three years down the road, according to Principal Teri White.

"The last three or four years (enrollment at Dayton High) has grown quite a bit," she said. "Since I came here it's doubled."

While Lyon County administrators say some of the additions in their district come from Carson, it's definitely not all. Enrollment in Carson has decreased in the past years - from 8,461 in 2004-05 to 8,263 in 2005-06 and is projected at 8,095 for the upcoming year.

"Most of our new enrollments are coming from California," White said about Dayton High. "A very few do come from other districts in the state. We do have some coming from Las Vegas and Carson but the significant enrollment is from California."

If growth continues, intermediate schools would be the next facilities in need of help, Johnson said.

"To actually build a new high school, I don't see that coming for a long time," he said. "The middle schools are a different story. They're probably getting closer to capacity."

• Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at or 881-1219.

By the numbers

Enrollment increases in Lyon County over the past 10 years:

1995-96 5,419

1996-97 5,859

1997-98 6,154

1998-99 6,344

1999-00 6,539

2000-01 6,665

2001-02 7,046

2002-03 7,266

2003-04 7,677

2004-05 8,190

2005-06 8,698


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