EDITORIAL: No good reason to oppose charter school

Sun City MacDonald Ranch residents certainly pay attention to what happens around their 2,500-home, age-restricted community. We wish more neighborhoods were as engaged, especially during municipal election season. In Henderson, particularly, there are plenty of government decisions worth fighting.

Putting a charter school in a long-vacant shopping center is not one of them.

As reported Feb. 19 by the Review-Journal’s Eric Hartley, the Coral Academy of Science — which already has three campuses in the valley — wants to open a school in four buildings outside MacDonald Ranch. The campus would educate about 1,500 third- through eighth-graders and help reduce the school’s waiting list, which has more than 4,000 students.

But more than 600 MacDonald Ranch residents have signed a petition opposing the campus. The primary complaint from homeowners is a fear that school traffic would clog adjacent roads; the site is just southeast of the intersection of Green Valley Parkway and Horizon Ridge Parkway. Twice a day — at morning dropoff and the pre-rush-hour afternoon pickup — hundreds of new vehicles would come through the area.

But the school site has two access points, one off Green Valley Parkway that doesn’t border MacDonald Ranch, and another off Horizon Ridge, which is across from a MacDonald Ranch access road. No one traveling to the school would use any MacDonald Ranch roads, and only those driving on Horizon Ridge would go near or through the community. The school building closest to MacDonald Ranch sits about 130 yards from approximately 15 homes — and 100 yards from a walled-off property line.

Based on residents’ reactions, you would think Coral Academy proposed putting a charter school between the 10th and 11th holes of the community’s executive golf course. But the charter school is moving into a commercial corridor. It would share a parking lot with a Fresh &Easy grocery store, which is close to houses north and south of Horizon Ridge, a CVS drugstore and a Wells Fargo bank branch.

Furthermore, right across Green Valley Parkway is a huge, busy shopping center anchored by Target, which draws far more traffic than a school ever would. A new apartment complex is breaking ground next to the shopping center and soon will have hundreds of residents — and hundreds of cars.

Horizon Ridge traffic will only get busier, school or no school.

And all the aforementioned properties draw traffic pretty much every day of the year, from dawn to well beyond dusk. A school is not a 24-7, 365-day operation. For half the year — summer, weekends, winter and spring breaks, holidays — there would be no school traffic outside MacDonald Ranch at all.

Rapid enrollment growth has created a severe campus crowding problem for the Clark County School District. Allowing this charter school — a public school — to open a new campus will ease enrollment pressure at no capital expense to taxpayers, while putting a paying tenant into a building that’s been vacant for five years. If the campus is approved, it quickly will accommodate 1,500 students who want a science-focused education — no waiting two years for the place to be built. It’s an important project for the entire valley.

MacDonald Ranch residents are fired up about the school’s plans. But the Henderson Planning Commission and City Council must have the courage to tell homeowners this project is worthwhile and that it won’t hurt their property values or quality of life any more than the myriad other nearby ventures that have been in business for years. Open the school.

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