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Aging Clark County schools could benefit from federal plan

Updated March 19, 2019 - 8:03 pm

In the middle of state standardized testing two years ago at Hoggard Elementary, staff had to pull the fire alarm and evacuate the downtown Las Vegas school.

An electrical issue in the ceiling of the 67-year-old building was causing smoke.

Hoggard’s structural problems are just one of many across campuses in the Clark County School District, which estimates capital needs to be about $10 billion through the end of 2025. The district currently has about $4 billion for such issues.

But a new federal proposal, the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, would provide $100 billion for infrastructure improvements at schools across the country.

“It makes crucial investments that we need in America so that our kids are going to school that are safe, provide the learning environment that they need to grow,” U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., who co-sponsored the bill, said at Hoggard on Tuesday.

The act would provide grants and school construction bonds over the next decade, requiring states to provide 10 percent in matching money. Districts that receive grants must provide a 10-year master plan and must adopt a certain amount of green building practices in constructing or renovating a school.

The district said it focuses on highest-priority facility problems — issues that need to be fixed in order to safely keep kids in school. As a result, the district’s maintenance response is reactive to emergency work orders and not preventative, officials note. Those issues may only grow with time — roughly 59 percent of Clark County schools are more than 20 years old.

At Hoggard, many of the building issues are within the walls, Principal Stacey Scott-Cherry said.

The building is “gently used and greatly loved,” she said, noting that all students still deserve the best physical building possible.

“They deserve access to the best educational opportunities that we could provide for them, and they need a building that is suitable for doing just that,” she said.

But fixing the district’s neediest buildings has required moving students around and placing them in temporary spaces while their old school gets a makeover. In 2020, Hoggard students will move to nearby Fyfe Elementary while the district demolishes the old Hoggard building and erects a more modern, two-story school.

The capital needs have also led to public frustration, including at Las Vegas Academy, originally the Las Vegas High School that opened in 1930.

Michelle Ray, a senior at the school, told the School Board last week that it is hard to get a better education when the plumbing and air conditioning do not work. The walls in one of the girls’ bathrooms started to cave in this year, she said.

“It is not fun and nor is it fair for students who want a better education to have to face those types of things in a world-renowned and a high-ranking school,” Ray said.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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