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Little school, big decision: Residents oppose closure ahead of expected school board vote

Updated June 22, 2024 - 6:56 pm

Earl B. Lundy Elementary School may be small, but its advocates — parents, students and Mount Charleston townspeople — are putting up a big fight to keep the school open.

Lundy, damaged by the remnants of Tropical Storm Hilary in August 2023, will be officially recommended for closure at the June 27 Clark County School District Board of School Trustees meeting, with the board expected to vote on it at the meeting.

The recommendation, which was first announced in a letter sent to parents on May 10, came as a surprise to Lundy lovers. For Mount Charleston residents, Lundy is more than just an education center — it’s part of Mount Charleston’s history. It’s a gathering place.

“For us, growing up, it was a really special place,” said Katie Corr, 34, who walked through the woods everyday while attending the two-room schoolhouse in the 1990s with her siblings.

The elementary school, on Yellow Pine Avenue near Kyle Canyon Road, opened in 1966 as Mt. Charleston Elementary School but was renamed in in 2001 as a tribute to the school’s longtime custodian Earl B. Lundy.

Parents and Mount Charleston residents are upset for a range of reasons. They claim a lack of transparency from Clark County School District, a late notice for Lundy’s closure, and the long commute to and from school, just to name a few.

Every day, Lundy students are bused to Indian Springs Elementary School. The journey, with stops included, is over an hour each way, the district said. Lundy parents said their children are waking up as early as 5 a.m. to catch their 6 a.m bus. In turn, this has caused children to fall asleep in class, parents and residents said.

Parents also feel the district has lacked transparency over the issue. Mount Charleston residents assumed the school, which serves 10 students, would reopen in time for the 2024-2025 school year. Until May 10, the district didn’t give any indication otherwise, parents said.

On June 7, two meetings addressing the proposed school closure were held. One was at Indian Springs Elementary School, where a small group of Lundy students now attend. The other was at the Retreat at Charleston Peak, where Keep Lundy Open, a coalition of Lundy parents and Mount Charleston residents, gathered to discuss their opposition to the school’s closure.

Cost of repairs

On June 20, the district’s Bond Oversight Committee, which provides financial, bond and investment oversight of the district’s capital improvement program, met to hear the district’s presentation about why it wants to close Lundy.

Repairing the storm-damaged school would come with a price tag in the millions of dollars, district representatives said at the meeting. As well, district officials indicated that if that restoration work were to begin, more unanticipated repair needs could be found, which could then drive the cost up.

The financial total of the damages is estimated at between $5.5 million and $6.5 million, said Jason Goudie, the district’s chief financial officer.

With the district’s insurance factored in, Goudie also said the district would have to pay at least $3.5 million out of pocket.

Ten students would have attended Lundy this most recent school year, Goudie said. The school’s capacity is 48, according to the district.

Some Lundy advocates argue against Lundy’s closure because they say it’s a five-star school. While the school did garner a five-star rating from the Nevada Department of Education for the 2020-2021 school year, “the school did not meet the enrollment and measurement requirements to receive a star rating” in the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 school years, the district said in an email.

“When you look at the student enrollment at Lundy, it is low, but the storm Hilary was a catalyst for us looking at a recommendation for closure,” Interim Superintendent Brenda Larsen-Mitchell said in the June 7 meeting at Indian Springs Elementary School.

At least one member of the committee was not sold on the district’s plan. At the June 7 Indian Springs meeting, Abraham Camejo criticized the district for what he said has been a lack of transparency, and at the June 20 meeting, he did so again.

Questions

Camejo said he found between 26 and 30 students living on the mountain who would attend Lundy in the next few years.

“I found out by simply talking to the community, something the school district has not done,” Camejo alleged.

He accused CCSD of repeatedly trying to close Lundy in the past, specifically referencing 2008, when the district said it could not justify the operating cost of a small, rural school.

“The school district is trying to close this school down again,” he said. “I believe these students deserve a place to learn, not to get bused around.”

During public comment, Brenda Talley, an outspoken advocate for Lundy and Mount Charleston resident, and Chris Giunchigliani, a former Clark County commissioner, spoke in favor of keeping Lundy open.

Giunchigliani fired off multiple questions.

“Why haven’t we seen a written damage and cost report? Why have we not been able to discuss these options like adults? Why can’t we do a walkthrough with the engineers?” she asked. “Rural schools should be protected, not abandoned.”

Talley blasted the district for its proposal to shutter the school.

“Retract the recommendation for closure, get the actual cost and let’s get this school repaired and opened, instead of balancing the budget on the backs of these young kids,” she finished.

The school board trustee for the area that includes Lundy, Katie Williams, declined to comment.

Parent perspective

Monique Sweeney, 42, pulled her child out of Indian Springs when he was found crying in the hallway. Brenden, 7, was kept after school and couldn’t find his bus home.

It was Brenden’s second week at Indian Springs. Had Lundy not been closed this year, Brenden would’ve been a student there.

“I had to hightail my butt to the school to go get my son,” she said, detailing that if she’d been home, it would’ve taken her an hour to reach him.

Sweeney outlined further concerns. She said the bus stop for Mount Charleston children is in a so-called dead zone, which prevents parents from being able to communicate with their children because of a lack of cell service.

A ‘lot of culture’ at Lundy

The district is offering support to the district families who would be affected by a closure, said the CCSD’s Region 1 Superintendent Lindsay Tomlinson.

“We are providing options for them,” she said. “We’re working with them individually, they’re welcome to reach out to us for support.”

Lundy’s possible closure is also concern for Mount Charleston residents because the facility acts as a fire service training program, a playground and a community center.

Asked what would happen to the building if the closure were to happen, a district spokesperson said in an email that there is “no current decision, and a future plan cannot be established until the Board of School Trustees either approves or denies the recommendation.”

August will mark Lundy’s first anniversary of being closed.

“We know there’s a lot of culture out at Lundy, and we don’t want that to go fade away,” Tomlinson said.

Contact Ella Thompson at ethompson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @elladeethompson on X.

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