The city of Las Vegas is taking school to the streets with a new mobile classroom.
The program to boost early childhood education offerings is a mobile prekindergarten classroom, essentially a retrofitted Winnebago that city officials envision going into some of Las Vegas’ neediest neighborhoods to help prepare local children for school.
A large share of the children living in the lowest-income areas don’t attend prekindergarten, said Lisa Morris Hibbler, director of the city’s 2½-year-old Youth Development and Social Innovation department.
“The whole point of us contributing to this effort is we want to make sure our kids get the best start possible,” Morris Hibbler said. “Most brain development occurs between birth and age 5, and that’s when we need to give our kids a boost.”
The mobile prekindergarten program, funded in the city budget, takes effect July 1. The mobile classroom is under construction and is expected to be completed in time to launch the educational program in September or October, said Angela Rose, the city’s community and youth development officer.
The program will have space for 40 students, and half-day classes are expected to be offered year-round. Students ages 3 to 5 will be enrolled based on need, and a teacher and support staffers will be hired over the summer, Rose said.
The city set aside about $400,000 to build the mobile classroom and up to $300,000 for new staff salary and benefits in the new budget, Morris Hibbler said.
Taking the mobile classroom into neighborhoods also will aim to raise awareness for early childhood education programs.
The Clark County School District serves public school students in Las Vegas, but city officials don’t preside over the district. In early 2016, the City Council gave the green light to the new Department of Youth Development and Social Innovation to administer educational programs and hired Morris Hibbler to helm it. The city’s educational offerings aim to supplement what the school district provides, such as before- and after-school programs.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who founded the Meadows School, supported creating the department more than two years ago and pushed for the new mobile classroom initiative.
The city already launched Strong Start learning academies that promote school readiness, but Goodman said she wants the city to target families that existing early education programs aren’t reaching.
The highest-need areas in the city are largely concentrated in the urban core — the Historic Westside and parts of the east side. Without a base going into kindergarten, students can be behind their peers before they even start.
“We need to get to our young children in these areas so they’re ready to read like every other child that’s not born in the more challenged areas,” Goodman said.