In its first year, the Las Vegas Day School enrolled 27 students. Today, the state’s oldest private school, at 3275 Red Rock St., is wrapping up its 50th academic year with an enrollment of 920.
Jack Daseler, who previously taught children of U.S. military families stationed in Germany after World War II, founded the school in 1961. The school has remained in the family’s care as the founder’s son, Neil Daseler, 58, took over as director 36 years ago.
"There are times that I have to pinch myself a little bit and say, ‘This is just staggering,’ " Neil Daseler said. "To have done this and to have gotten to 50 years, you know, I’m proud of the fact that we’ve carried on what my parents started."
Fostering a family-oriented environment has been key to the school’s longevity, Daseler said.
"That’s really how we see the whole relationship with our staff and how we want our staff to see our children," he said. "We want (the teachers) to treat them as if they are their own."
Daseler’s sense of family is not lost on the faculty. Many of the teachers have worked at the school more than 15 years.
Ann Boswell, 69, has taught fifth grade at Las Vegas Day School for 21 years.
"It’s been interesting to watch (the school) grow and change," Boswell said. "My own feeling is that it’s always changed for the positive."
Over the past decade, the school has spent approximately $25 million building new facilities for preschool and kindergarten, elementary and middle school students, including a library, computer labs and a weight training room.
Since 1980, the school has hired 100 faculty and staff members.
In 1975, tuition was $700 per year. Families now pay around $14,000 per year in tuition.
The original classrooms, demolished in 2009, had chalkboards, and copies were made using hand-cranked fluid duplicators. The new classrooms have rolling laptop carts and flat-screen televisions with satellite connections.
However, there is one thing that hasn’t changed.
"The children have not changed," Boswell said. "At the beginning of the year, I still have 10-year-olds who are not much different from the 10-year-olds 20 years ago."
She credits this to the values the senior Daselers, Jack and his wife Helen, instilled in the school and those involved with it.
"The desire to have success and the desire to have a good education is there," Boswell said. "It’s refreshing to see, especially in today’s society, that those values are still there."
Boswell said she is retiring after this school year but hopes the values will persist.
Deb Lemmons, 53, has taught eighthgrade science for 23 years. She believes her current eighth-graders are cognizant of their school’s rich history, despite their status as the first students in the new facilities.
The construction was done in phases, always one year ahead of them.
"They are the group that has always seen everything as brand new," she said. "These kids have never sat at a used desk."
Lemmons has no plans of leaving the school yet.
"If I didn’t come here, I don’t know what I would do all the time," she said. "Every year, I sign my contract one more year."
Like Lemmons, the Las Vegas Day School is not finished yet.
According to Daseler, the school plans to build a new athletic facility with basketball and volleyball courts, as well as an artificial turf football and soccer field at the north end of campus.
Daseler said his late father would be proud to see what the school has become.
"You know, I would hope that he would smile and yet have a degree of empathy for the work and the responsibility I’ve created," Daseler said, laughing. "But to be honest, I enjoy my job every day, and I look forward to coming here every day."
Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Nolan Lister at email@example.com or 383-0492.