Incline leads enrollment decline
As the Washoe County School District reels from a projected $6 million budget shortfall from overestimating this year’s enrollment, Incline schools brace for the fallout which may include a freeze in the general fund making it difficult to supply schools for the entire year.
The downturn in enrollment in the Reno/Sparks area, however, may be a trend that started in Incline, officials from the Washoe County School District’s office said.
As home prices continue to climb in Northern Nevada, young families have fled, making room for retirees and speculators to move in – and perhaps ushering a permanent shift in planning and budgeting.
“Certainly in places like Incline you can see at the elementary level a decline in enrollment,” said Superintendent Paul Dugan. “It’s very possible that’s what we’re seeing in the Reno/Sparks area. This year’s (budget) shortfall will affect Incline no differently than any other Washoe County Schools, but we are going to have to re-learn how we calculate enrollment.”
Ron Cooney, communications specialist for the district, said its growth estimates this year were only 2.4 percent – or approximately 1,400 students district-wide.
Estimates show only 117 new students enrolled – a number district officials refer to as “zero-percent growth.”
“When we did the 2.4 percent projection, that was a very conservative estimate,” Dugan said. “We need to look at the process carefully for next year and we will more than likely be working on a budget based on zero-growth.”
That the district as a whole is seeing the “ripple effect” of people moving to other parts of Nevada is nothing new for those who have worked at Incline schools.
Harry Haaser, Incline Middle School principal and an educator in Incline for more than 30 years, said the trend in Incline of the young family leaving town is not only long-known – it is getting worse.
“Back in 1997 I (was principal) of the elementary school,” Haaser said. “We had 730 (enrolled) and the projection was to go to 800. The plan was to build the satellite school and then build the school itself out to 800.
“In those six years enrollment went from 730 to 420, and it’s still dropping.”
Haaser said the average enrollment of each class enrolled at Incline schools through most of his tenure was 100.
In recent years that average has dropped to 75. This year’s kindergarten class has an enrollment of 55.
“The bubble will eventually hit the high school,” Haaser said. “It’s a permanent trend in this community. The middle class is disappearing. There isn’t a school I don’t walk into down the hill and see former Incline students. Some have moved away from the area altogether.”