Elementary school prepares for ‘final flight’ at Nellis

Emotions have been running high at Heard Elementary School at Nellis Air Force Base.

Teachers voices crack as they describe their love for the aging campus. Students fight back tears — most, unsuccessfully — as they offer parting gifts to their favorite teacher.

The school clerk, as if she were planning a funeral, calls former students and administrators with a somber invitation to a “final flight” assembly in May.

After more than four decades of serving thousands of military families and their children, the Clark County School District soon must shutter Heard Elementary and hand over the keys to a charter school.

“When we announced it to students in October, I had students who were devastated — like, on-the-concrete-sidewalk-crying devastated,” fourth-grade teacher Allison Mesina said Tuesday as jets roared above her quiet classroom.

“Do you know how many times military families move around? For some of (the students), this has been a really strong sense of security and stability,” Mesina added. “Now that’s changing, and they have no control. They have no idea what’s coming next.”

In August, the high-performing Coral Academy of Science, a public charter school, will move into Heard, which most recently earned a four-star accountability rating from the state. Coral Academy officials have encountered many questions about what exactly a charter school is but already have received enough applications for the Nellis campus that it had to start a waiting list.

For the past decade, Nellis officials have pleaded with the school district to replace the 63-year-old school with a new one in a quieter part of the base. The district declined and last year revealed a $420 million plan to build 14 new or replacement schools over the next two years.

Absent from that list: Heard Elementary. Instead, the district will replace Lincoln and Bell elementary schools, which opened two and 10 years, respectively, after the Air Force built Heard in 1953.

“I’m sad, a little bit, that we’re closing a school that’s been an institution on that base for a lot of years,” said Clark County School Board member Chris Garvey, whose district includes Heard.

She noted military parents feel secure sending them to a school within the base gates but questioned whether the incoming operator could successfully accommodate the students there, especially those with special needs.

“It’s a concern,” she added. “If you had a child like that, you want to make sure that child has the best opportunities to grow and develop. For me, I just want to make sure parents don’t have to choose between safety of the base or a program for their child.”

Different demographics

The School Board on Thursday unanimously voted to close Heard on June 30.

The Air Force, meanwhile, is negotiating to replace Heard with Coral, which has three campuses in the Las Vegas Valley.

Coral boasts the state’s highest-possible accountability rating but serves a student population with less diversity and fewer disadvantaged students. In 2014-15, less than one-fifth of its students were black or Hispanic. Only 6 percent qualified for free and reduced-priced lunch, and only 4 percent identified as special education.

Contrast that with Heard, where 30 percent of students are black or Hispanic, a full third comes from low-income households, and the special education population hovers around 15 percent.

Master Sgt. Sanjay Allen, a Nellis spokesman, directed questions about Coral Academy’s ability to handle a more diverse student population to the charter school.

Asked how Nellis will ensure the school serves special-needs children well, Allen wrote in an email that Coral Academy “complies with federal and state regulations with establish eligibility criteria for all students seeking special education services.”

‘The whole kid’

For its part, Coral has not ignored concerns that it may face a learning curve when it expands to Nellis.

The charter, which offers a science- and mathematics-based curriculum, will operate for two years in the former Heard building.

During that time, it will build a facility of up to 50,000-square-feet that will serve 800 to 1,000 students in kindergarten through eighth-grade. Coral expects to pay $1.9 million to $2.1 million in campus construction debt over 25 years.

More immediate, Coral Academy must hire enough workers to staff both the Nellis expansion and a new elementary campus in Centennial Hills. Both open in August.

“We view that as a positive,” said Candyce Farthing, Coral’s chief academic officer. “They’re both K-5.”

Farthing and her staff will meet with their counterparts at Heard to learn what it takes to meet the unique needs of military children.

Heard last year reported a transiency rate of 32 percent, meaning nearly a third of students move to or from the campus as their parents received new assignments from the Air Force.

Heard also welcomes students who travel the globe and may have limited proficiency in English — Coral taught no such students last year.

And schools that serve military families must be prepared to help students who lose a parent in combat.

Farthing stressed the Nellis campus will house a full-time counselor, mentoring and other services to focus on “each, individual” student. “We support the whole kid,” Farthing said.

The full-time counselor already has been hired, school officials said Saturday.

‘Closing a chapter’

At the end of this month, Coral will host a public lottery for all students who apply to enroll in any of its campuses. 

Nonmilitary families, if they won a spot at the Nellis school, would have encountered security clearance issues to enter the base. But state law grants priority enrollment to military families and children of civilians who work at Nellis.

Those priority groups have filled every seat at the Nellis Coral, with many more on a waiting list. Students who attend Heard but do not get into Coral will be absorbed by two nearby elementary schools, based on class size per grade.

Initially, the Nellis Coral will have 600 students and about 75 teachers.

Prospective candidates can apply at two job fairs on Feb. 20 and April 9, and Farthing said she would “love” to receive applications from the existing Heard staff.

That staff includes kindergarten teacher Cristina Manns, who once attended Heard as a military brat.

“This has been so special for me because I used to walk these same hallways and know what it’s like to have to adapt,” Manns said. “This was my first school in the states, so it’s really like closing a chapter. It’s heartbreaking.”

Contact Neal Morton at nmorton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @nealtmorton

ad-high_impact_4
News
Vegas Homeless Remembered
Las Vegas vigil remembers 179 homeless people who died over the past year in Clark County. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A look inside Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory
Tesla's Gigafactory east of Reno produces the batteries that fuel the company's electric cars. Production has created more than 7,000 jobs, and the campus that includes one of the largest buildings in the world is expected to triple in size by the time it is completed. Tesla Vice President Chris Lister leads a tour of the facility. (Bill Dentzer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garnet Interchange Ribbon Cutting
The Nevada Department of Transportation celebrated the completion of the $63 million I-15-US 93 Garnet Interchange project. The project includes a modified diverging diamond interchange and a 5-mile widening of US 93.
State Foresters Hunt for Record Trees
Urban foresters from the Nevada Division of Forestry hunt for record setting trees.
Rick Davidson directs NFR satellite feed
Rick Davidson directs the Wrangler NFR's live satellite feed from a production trailer outside the Thomas & Mack Center. (Patrick Everson)
Scott Boras, Bryce Harper's agent, speaks to media at baseball's winter meetings
Baseball agent Scott Boras updates media on the contract negotiations of his client Bryce Harper during baseball's winter meetings at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Achievement School District
The achievement district faced strong opposition from traditional schools back in its beginnings in 2016. But with schools like Nevada Rise and Nevada Prep, it's slowly and steadily growing. Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fresno State QB on record-breaking receiver
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion talks record-setting receiver KeeSean Johnson. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The annual 'Shop with a Cop' event at Target
This year’s "Shop with a Cop" event gave about 40 children the chance to shop at Target alongside a North Las Vegas Police officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Bizutesfaye
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like