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November 28, 2014

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Rural elementaries face closure

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Tiffany Brown / FILE

A student walks home from Goodsprings Elementary last year. The Clark County School District is likely to close the school, which has six students, after this year.

One of Clark County’s oldest schools has survived the Great Depression, two world wars and the demise of the mines surrounding the town of Goodsprings.

Goodsprings Elementary might not survive the next round of School District budget cuts.

District officials said this week they intend to close the school, 30 miles southwest of Las Vegas, which has six students, two rooms and one teacher.

Also slated for closure at the end of the academic year is Lundy Elementary, which serves nine students in a one-room school on Mount Charleston.

The cost of operating the two rural schools can no longer be justified as the school system cuts $120 million from its budget for the upcoming biennium, officials say.

Goodsprings’ operating budget for the current fiscal year is $220,450, or a per-pupil cost of $36,742 for salaries, benefits and instructional supplies. At Lundy, the operating budget is $195,767, or $21,752 for each of its nine students.

The district average is about $7,000 per pupil.

If the schools close, Goodsprings students would be sent to Sandy Valley, a K-12 campus with a total enrollment of about 300 that’s a 20-minute bus ride away.

Lundy students would be sent to Indian Springs, also a K-12 campus. The ride, including stops, would last 75 minutes.

District officials said there would be no additional transportation costs because there are buses for those routes.

But residents of Goodsprings and Mount Charleston say the savings to the district would be minimal, but the loss to their communities would be nearly incalculable.

Goodsprings residents say the yellow schoolhouse, built in 1913, is in many ways the heart of their community.

It’s the reason Dana Rhoades, then a Las Vegas resident, moved there 20 years ago.

“We came into Goodsprings and saw this little teeny schoolhouse,” Rhoades told the Sun. “That’s what made my decision — in the middle of Clark County you had a small town with an awesome school. So we moved.”

Her daughter Megan, 11, is a fifth grader at Goodsprings Elementary, where her older brothers were also students.

Other students are the children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of former Goodsprings pupils.

“We’re a family here,” Rhoades said. “We choose to live here because our children get an educational experience they can’t get anywhere else.”

Residents of Mount Charleston have told district officials they are willing to do whatever is needed to preserve Lundy Elementary, which was built in 1965.

At a community meeting last month, parents said they would stage fundraisers, pay for classroom supplies and help with maintenance and clerical duties. They also said they would support a four-day school week to cut costs, said Amy Brown, whose daughter is a kindergartner at the school.

“We were all willing to do whatever it takes,” Brown said. “We all understood there was a budget crisis, and we are ready to make sacrifices to meet the cuts the district was asking for.”

Brown, who lives in Kyle Canyon, said putting her young daughter, Sabrina, on a bus to Indian Springs “isn’t an option.” If Lundy closes, she said she will likely home-school her daughter.

“Right now,” Brown said, “We don’t know if this is a done deal or if this is a fight we can actually fight and win.”

District officials will hold a meeting tonight at Lundy to discuss the school’s closing.

A community meeting for Goodsprings residents is scheduled for Thursday.

Paul Garbiso, assistant superintendent for the district’s southwest region, said his office has informed Goodsprings staff that closing the school “is the direction the district wants us to take.”

“It’s unfortunate, but I think most of the community is accepting it, knowing the budget situation we face,” Garbiso said.

Lauren Kohut-Rost, the district’s deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said there are benefits to attending a larger school.

At Indian Springs, students have a computer lab and laptops, and the art, music and physical education classes are taught by full-time teachers, rather than visiting specialists. Sandy Valley offers similar benefits, Kohut-Rost said, as well as a full-time English Language Learner teacher and a large library.

Kohut-Rost said she plans to go over the finer points with the families at the community meetings.

“What we’re really there to do is listen and answer questions,” Kohut-Rost told the Sun.

Rhoades plans to share her thoughts at the Goodsprings meeting, but she doesn’t hold much hope that the school can be saved.

“The School District has made the decision already,” Rhoades said. “We’re just an afterthought.”

The final decision to close the campuses rests with the Clark County School Board. A vote is scheduled for Jan. 22.

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