Hearings to focus on closure of schools

The legacy of the rural, one-room schoolhouse could end with the budget ax in the Clark County School District.

Two public hearings are scheduled for tonight and Thursday to discuss closing Lundy Elementary School, which serves nine Mount Charleston students, and Goodsprings Elementary School, which serves six students in a desert community near the California state line.

Goodsprings, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has used the same school building for 96 years, is thought to be one of the oldest schools in Nevada, if not the oldest.

The Clark County School Board is expected to vote Jan. 22 on whether to close the schools, but parents and community members think the district is just going through the motions.

"We don't feel like we have had a say in this," said Andrea Reese, the stepmother of Tristin, 10, a fourth-grader at Goodsprings.

"We feel like the decision has already been made," she said. "We are pissed."

Craig Baldwin, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort, said his business participated in many school fundraisers and hosted many school activities for Lundy.

Baldwin said closing the school would hurt his mountain community. "We are very disappointed," he said.

Harley Lloyd completed sixth grade at Goodsprings in 1989, when the school had a sixth grade. It now serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade. He is the father of two of the six students now enrolled at Goodsprings.

Lloyd, a heavy-equipment operator for a mining company, vowed to move his family to another rural community if the district closed Goodsprings Elementary School.

Goodsprings, opened in 1913, still has its original school bell. Its outhouses and potbellied stove are long gone.

"It has only missed a few days of school (in its history) because of snow," Lloyd said. "Now it's going to close because of a financial crisis?"

He said the school was remodeled a few years ago. "What a waste," he said.

Because of the faltering economy, which has led to a shortfall in state funding, district officials are looking to cut $120 million from its budget from next year.

Superintendent Walt Rulffes said the district spends about $20,000 to $30,000 per student to maintain the schools. The state, on average, spends about $8,000 per student.

If there is a silver lining, it might be that the students from the rural schools would find more programs and opportunities at bigger schools.

"We find it extremely unpleasant to close a school, but we do have alternative possibilities for those kids that are, in many cases, beyond what they're getting now," Rulffes said.

Goodsprings students would be bused to Sandy Valley, which is a commute of about 20 minutes.

Mount Charleston students would go to Indian Springs, which is a commute of about 45 minutes.

Rulffes said the Goodsprings students normally go to neighboring Sandy Valley to attend sixth grade anyway. Sandy Valley also added a high school last year.

Julie Newberry, the primary teacher at Goodsprings from 1982 to 1999, disputed the notion that students could get better education elsewhere.

Both Goodsprings and Lundy have shown consistent, year-to-year progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Students get the benefit of smaller classes and individual attention, Newberry said. Because of the flexibility of having several grades taught in the same classroom, high-achieving students easily can advance to higher grade levels, she said.

"No child ever falls through the cracks," she said.

Rulffes said the district would keep the school buildings but explore new uses for them.

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@reviewjournal.com or 702-799 -2922.