The Clark County School District is taking steps to end its turf war with Clark County residents.
Green grass is in short supply in the Las Vegas Valley — an unavoidable reality given the desert climate and ongoing drought. Parents are also always looking for playgrounds and open spaces to allow their children to burn off their seemingly endless energy. This has led many parents, children and community members to look longingly at the fields, playgrounds and courts of local schools. They’ve had to do most of their looking from behind locked fences.
The playgrounds and facilities at most schools are underutilized. Students play on them during recess or practice on them after school, but often some of Clark County’s best recreation facilities sit empty. This is especially true when school isn’t in session during the summer.
This makes sense for the school district. Keeping its facilities locked up means their playgrounds and courts stay clean. It also limits their legal liability.
But it makes little sense for taxpayers. County property taxes fund the construction of school facilities. County residents fund school operations by paying the 13th highest sales tax in the nation and a variety of business taxes. Residents pay for schools, and they should have more access to these facilities.
Expanding access to school recreational areas is such a common sense idea, it’s no surprise government bureaucracies have resisted the idea. Fortunately, that’s in the process of changing. Earlier this month, the school district Board of Trustees approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Clark County to update their Open Schools – Open Doors Agreement.
This new agreement would give the public increased access to school facilities. Superintendent Jesus Jara said he wants to begin the program with five schools. The goal is to figure out which parts of a school could be open to the public when school isn’t in session.
“The key word here is ‘pilot’ as the involvement of the principals is going to be critical,” Jara said according to a district news release.
Good for the board and Jara for pursuing this. Jara should remind principals that their schools aren’t personal fiefdoms, but community property. It will take work to work through the logistical challenges this presents. There are legitimate issues to sort out, such as insurance, scheduling and repairs. Once the county and district have established successfully the pilot program, Jara and the board should work to expand it to as many schools as possible.
This increased access will allow many more residents to benefit from the schools facilities they’ve already been paying for.