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School Board gives final OK for $3.5B in facility projects

Updated December 1, 2021 - 10:55 pm

The Clark County School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to give final approval for $3.5 billion in facility projects for the next 14 years.

The board held a joint meeting with the bond oversight committee, which decided Oct. 28 on the project recommendations.

Projects are for the fifth revision to the school district’s 2015 capital improvement program, which allows for issuing bonds for facility projects. The program was originally slated to last for 10 years, but the state Legislature decided this year to extend it through 2035.

Trustees said Wednesday they’re excited about the upcoming projects and thanked district staff.

“I want to commend the work that was done on this,” said Trustee Lisa Guzman, who’s the board liaison to the bond oversight committee.

Guzman, along with a handful of other trustees, asked how the district is addressing concerns raised by the city of Henderson that revision five doesn’t include a new traditional high school in the city, which has experienced school overcrowding.

The revision, though, does include plans for five new high schools, including a 1,000-student “choice” campus in southeast Henderson.

During a public comment period, Tara Phebus, education initiatives officer for the City of Henderson, read a letter from Mayor Debra March into the record.

In the letter, March said revision five doesn’t meet the needs of Henderson and the city can’t support “a proposed revision that continues to ignore the need for another traditional high school to support population growth in west Henderson.”

March also expressed concerns about the size and location of the choice school, noting it’s a small campus that will draw students from across the Las Vegas Valley, not a zoned surrounding geographic area.

The letter fails to address the 1,800-student career and technical academy already approved for construction in west Henderson, Chief of Facilities Jeff Wagner told the board.

The school district has estimated a need for 2,800 additional high school seats in Henderson and feels it will be able to meet that between the two new schools, Wagner said.

The reality is the district doesn’t have enough resources to address all needs across the valley, he said.

Here are some of the projects the board approved:

— Five new high schools: Two “comprehensive” high schools, which are traditional campuses, will be constructed in southwest Las Vegas (near the intersection of West Cactus Avenue and South Buffalo Drive) and northwest Las Vegas (near the intersection of North Skye Canyon Park Drive and Log Cabin Way).

Two “choice” high schools will be built in the west and southeast valley, and Robinson Middle School in central Las Vegas will be converted to a choice high school.

— Las Vegas Academy of the Arts: Another major project is renovating and replacing Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, which will happen in eight phases over 10 years.

A master plan for the campus was developed in 2018, but there wasn’t enough money available at the time to accomplish the project, Wagner said.

Now, the project will allow Las Vegas Academy — the oldest high school in the district, built in 1930 — to increase its capacity to 2,200 students.

— 10 new elementary schools: The school district will earmark money for 10 new elementary schools, with specific sites yet-to-be determined. It doesn’t anticipate those will need to be constructed until at least 2026.

— Replacement schools: Elementary schools slated for replacement, with opening dates anywhere from 2024 to 2031, are: Bennett, Mountain View, Red Rock, Hancock, Helen Smith, Wengert, Stewart, Kelly, Tomiyasu, Cahlan, Diskin, Herron, Rowe and Bracken STEAM Academy. Original buildings only will also be replaced at Dearing and Dondero schools.

The Kelly Elementary School project calls for a 400-student campus with a “community school concept” that will include “wraparound services for the community and a possible partnership with a community partner,” according to online meeting materials.

Middle schools that will be replaced, opening from 2025 to 2034, are: Brinley, Woodbury, Garside, Von Tobel, Robison, Cashman, Bridger, Guinn, Hyde Park, Cannon, Orr, Indian Springs K-12, Gibson Leadership Academy, Mahlon Brown Academy of International Studies and Knudson Academy of Arts.

— Other projects: The district will build a campus at St. Jude’s Ranch for Children in Boulder City that will serve approximately 60 child victims of sex trafficking.

“Las Vegas has been a hotbed for sex trafficking for many years. Once this school is built it will shelter, serve and educate these vulnerable young people,” School District Superintendent Jesus Jara said in a Wednesday news release. “I look forward to the day when this facility will provide these children the specialized attention they will need, are able to overcome their traumas, and lead healthy and productive lives.”

The district also plans to convert Laughlin Junior/Senior High School and Bennett Elementary School in Laughlin into kindergarten through 12th grade campuses. And cafeteria additions are planned at Eldorado, Bonanza and Basic high schools.

In addition to building projects, the district will be given flexibility to use $525 million for technology and land acquisition for facility modernization instead.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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