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October 31, 2014

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Charter school seeking new location faces opposition

Private school says an additional school on Henderson cul-de-sac would pose a myriad of problems

A rapidly growing charter school in the Silverado Ranch area is trying to expand into Henderson, but its would-be neighbors at a private school say the street isn’t big enough for the both of them and are trying to block the move.

The Henderson Planning Commission is scheduled to hear both sides at a public hearing Thursday evening.

Since it opened near Windmill Parkway and Interstate 215 for the 2007-2008 school year, the Coral Academy of Science of Las Vegas has seen its enrollment grow from 120 students to a projected 600 students for the upcoming school year.

In March, school officials targeted a building in an office park on Valle Verde Drive near Sunset Road for a second campus to house students from grades four to 10, with kindergarten through third grade staying at the original building.

But officials at Green Valley Christian School, which shares a cul-de-sac with Coral Academy’s proposed new location in Henderson, have raised a loud voice against the proposal, saying that two schools on the cul-de-sac would cause serious traffic problems.

Since then, Green Valley Christian has called on parents to oppose Coral Academy’s request.

Executive Pastor Meg Morefield, after meeting with Coral officials and feeling that they failed to address the concerns raised, wrote a letter of opposition to the Henderson Planning Commission — the body that will have to issue Coral Academy a conditional use permit before it can move — in which Morefield called Coral’s officials “arrogant” and “jerky.”

Coral Academy Executive Director Feyzi Tandogan said he was caught off guard by the intensity of the concerns.

“We were very surprised,” he said. “We never expected this challenge and this opposition.”

In the letter, Morefield wrote that the establishment of a second school on the small cul-de-sac, Valle Verde Court, would bring traffic to a standstill during drop-off and pick-up times and pose a safety risk to children walking to and from both schools.

“As a church, we strive to be amiable to all and to also be good neighbors,” Morefield wrote. “Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to fix the traffic and safety problems that would inevitably be created if the change of use permit … is granted.”

Through an assistant at Green Valley Christian, Morefield declined to comment further.

To address the concerns, Tandogan offered to begin and end classes at Coral 30 minutes earlier than Green Valley Christian. He commissioned a traffic study, which showed that with such a provision in place, the nearby roads could handle the additional traffic. Henderson traffic engineers have approved the study and lent their approval to the request, as long as the 30-minute buffer and a handful of other conditions are met.

“We are trying our best to meet (Green Valley Christian’s) concerns,” Tandogan said.

Henderson city planners have also recommended approval on Coral Academy’s request.

Murat Erarslan, Coral Academy’s curriculum supervisor, said the school offered to meet earlier in an effort to reach out to Green Valley Christian.

“That’s our motivation,” he said. “We are motivated to be good neighbors, because there is nothing to be gained from negativity.”

He added that in the end, the two schools are pushing for the same thing.

“We are working for students — we are all educators,” he said. “I think there’s a common goal there for us.”

Erarslan pointed out that Coral Academy will not compete with Green Valley Christian, which has an enrollment of about 700 students. Coral Academy is a public charter school, and as such, is open to all students, he said, while Green Valley Christian is a private, religious school.

Coral officials said most of their student body lives in Henderson, and that opening a campus in Henderson would increase educational opportunities for the community. The school, patterned after the original Coral Academy of Science of Reno, specializes in math, science and technology education and has been designated as a high-achieving school.

While Coral Academy waits for the city to issue a decision, the drawn-out process has forced school officials to lease an alternative campus at 2290 Corporate Circle, near Green Valley Parkway and Interstate 215, which will house grades four through 10 for the upcoming school year.

But they say their sight remains set on the location next to Green Valley Christian. Tandogan said the building is a rarity in the Las Vegas Valley — one that can adequately accommodate a school and already has enough parking and playground space without additional construction.

“In the City of Las Vegas, there are no good sites for private schools or charter schools unless you build it yourself,” he said.

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