Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 | 2 a.m.
When Henderson International School opens Monday for the first day of the 2013-14 academic year, the private school will join a growing number of campuses across the valley that use iPads in class.
The K-8 school purchased 157 new iPads for elementary school students and will allow middle school students to bring their own laptops and tablet computers to campus.
This technology infusion is the brainchild of Seth Ahlborn, who took over the struggling private school last year. Over the past year, the former East Coast boarding school administrator began transforming Henderson International's technology and curriculum offerings with high hopes to attract more students.
The Sun sat down with Ahlborn to talk about his first year as Henderson International's headmaster and new changes coming to the 400-student school this year:
How are you feeling after your first year in Las Vegas?
We had a very good year — a lot of tone-setting with faculty members trying to get to know me. Last year, we laid the foundation for transforming Henderson International. We have a group of families and educators who are dedicated to our kids. With two new principals in place this year, it will free me up to get to know the community better.
Private, tuition-based schools nationally have struggled during the recession. There are some signs of an economic revival in Las Vegas. Are you hopeful that families and students will return to Henderson International?
It's hard to see if the rebound is a deep one or one that's a little more superficial. If it's a deeper, more sustainable rebound, next year we should see some stronger enrollment numbers. We have space in our preschool, but we're trending almost exactly the same as last year with our middle school enrollment. We're expecting our largest eighth-grade class.
Do you think the technology will help lure more families back to campus?
We've always had technology labs, but having the technology in the classroom to have kids interact with is new for us and a step forward. But I think the real question is: "What's happening with the technology?" We still believe there is an awful lot going on without a tablet. We're not going to be a screen-centric place. We want to integrate this technology to get kids to solve complex, higher-order problems.
Public schools are adapting to a new, more rigorous curriculum standard called the Common Core. What's changing at Henderson International in terms of the curriculum?
To be a licensed private school in this state, we have to follow the Common Core. But I think the focus on something common for all kids has the potential to not meet the needs of kids who are above average academically. For example, I have a second-grade teacher who will be teaching higher-order pieces that aren't taught in the Common Core until fifth grade. We're known for teaching at least a grade above the norm. If kids are investing the time in something, we want it invested not in busy work but in projects and activities that really push them to think at a deeper level.
With the economic rebound, there comes some new competition for local private schools. Nevada is investing in tuition-free kindergarten classes and has changed laws to entice national charter schools to expand here. Where will private schools fit into the mix?
I think anytime there are underperforming public schools, there are opportunities for other schools to come in and innovate. What we try to do here is to be a one-stop shop for families. Unlike charter schools, which tend to focus too much on one area, we have a broad-based approach to learning while following student interests. Our students are involved in performing arts, music, painting and Spanish, starting from a young age. We try to meet all of the different needs of our kids.
How can families who are interested in Henderson International learn more about your school?
Interested families can contact admissions at 702-818-2100. We still have financial aid resources in our budget, available to families on a needs basis. We have single moms here with a couple of kids. We have a family of five children enrolled. We have all manners of families who have decided private school is right for their children.