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October 1, 2014

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Summerlin magnet school welcomes 750 students

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Paul Takahashi

The West Career and Technical Academy in Summerlin has multiple computer labs. Students are also encouraged to bring their own laptops to campus, and can connect to a wireless network hosted by Google.

West Career and Technical Academy opens

West Career and Technical Academy began its inaugural school year on Monday, Aug. 30, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Map of West Career and Technical Academy

West Career and Technical Academy

11945 W. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas

Students at West Career and Technical Academy weren’t the only ones with first-school-day jitters and excitement Monday.

The Summerlin magnet high school was abounding with plenty of enthusiasm as teachers and staff welcomed 750 students in the academy’s inaugural freshmen and sophomore classes.

“It’s an amazing facility with amazing staff,” said sophomore biology teacher Veronica Cummins. “I’m excited to work here. I’m excited to be here.”

West Tech Academy is the last high school built under a 1998 voter-approved bond program to revitalize Clark County schools. Under the initiative, the county has spent a total of $4.1 billion to date for the construction of 101 new schools and the replacement of 11.

The remaining $200 million in the program’s budget will go toward rehabilitating existing schools, said Paul Gerner, associate superintendent of facilities.

“This school is state of the art,” said Principal Monte Bay. “We want to take it to a higher level."

West Tech is split into two academies: Medical Science, and the Environmental, Engineering and Technical. There are a total of nine programs within these academies of a variety of disciplines ranging from computer animation to veterinary and medical sciences.

“This is a great school,” said Zack Surmacz, a 14-year-old freshman who said he was “really excited, but a little nervous” about his first day. “[The programs] will help me in my working life.”

“The students want to be here,” said Superintendent Walt Rulffes. “We have found that students at school that are career-oriented do better in college … This is the way to improve graduation rates.”

West Tech – which cost $83.5 million and took 1 1/2 years to build – boasts four automated greenhouses, a wireless network set up by Google and a rotating solar panel for students to learn about photovoltaic cells. Built on 40 acres of land at the base of Red Rock Canyon, the facilities are also one of the most energy efficient in the district, using solar and geothermal energy to reduce its carbon footprint, officials said.

Despite the new facilities, officials said the major difference with the new school was in how they viewed students.

“Our philosophy at West Tech is to have a college environment that will treat students as if they are college students,” Bay said, adding that if staff members interact with students with mutual respect and professionalism, they will “rise to the occasion.”

“This is a model for what schools can be like everywhere.”

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