After years of delay and disagreement over the future of the Las Vegas Academy of Arts campus, momentum is building to fund long-sought repairs to its historic buildings.
A combination of donor funds and a recent $15 million capital improvement investment from the Clark County School District will help the school address two distinct needs: preserving the 80-year-old buildings of what was once the Las Vegas High School campus and updating spaces for the magnet school’s current performing arts students.
“These kids deserve a healthy and high-class facility,” Principal Scott Walker said. “With modern buildings that don’t rain on them, that don’t have ‘warning: asbestos’ written inside the walls.”
Two original Las Vegas High buildings — the main building and the gym, both built in 1930 — remain on the campus, though the renovation and preservation plan also includes newer facilities, including the 1,200-seat Performing Arts Center.
The original buildings are in poor shape, their Art Deco architecture marked by chipped paint on the outside and ceilings that leak when it rains. The heating and air conditioning system in the school is also temperamental.
“There’s two temperatures at LVA: hot or cold,” Walker said.
Still, the old buildings are meaningful to the alumni who attended class in them. On Monday, the Las Vegas High School Alumni Association donated $11,600 to the school to help fund upgrades to the arts center, including new exterior paint, lights, ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps and electric improvements inside.
“It’s about preserving history,” alum Allen Kaercher said of the gift.
The Clark County School Board approved Thursday a $365,000 project to renovate the arts center, funded through a $275,000 payment from the nonprofit Friends of Las Vegas Academy and $90,000 grant from the City of Las Vegas Centennial Commission. Another $54,750 contingency payment will be available for unforeseen circumstances.
Walker said the school has long relied on donations and self-fundraising for facilities needs, like putting up fencing to prevent members of the public from walking onto the school’s upper campus. The Friends of Las Vegas Academy donation has been awaiting a legal agreement with the district before plans can move forward.
Apart from the donor money earmarked for the arts center, the School Board in November approved $15 million for modernization improvements at the school, out of a total $406 million available for 290 campuses over 20 years old. That sum will go toward maintenance needs throughout the campus in buildings that LVA intends to preserve, according to Assistant Principal Josh Hager. That will include HVAC and roof renovations that can prevent costly emergency repairs like a $3.4 million roof and cooling tower replacement approved for the school in December.
The modernization is currently in the planning stages, according to the district, with construction set to begin during the third quarter of the year and anticipated to last approximately 12 months.
The money won’t cover all the work that needs to be done at the school, as the total amount needed to address every facilities issue at LVA would likely be a sum unfair to other schools, Hager added.
Walker said the school eventually hopes to turn the original gym into a library and do away with buildings that date to the mid-1950s, that aren’t considered historic landmarks.