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EDITORIAL: New charter helps students learn a trade

Nevada’s educational system does have some bright spots. Many are provided by local charter schools.

College isn’t the best path for every student. Southern Nevada Trades High School is a new charter school that prepares those students for career success on a different path. It recently celebrated its first year in operation. As the name implies, the school teaches students about construction. Its pupils take classes in English and math but also get their hands dirty and dusty.

The school is small. It had almost 90 students last year. Next year, it expects enrollment to approach 200. Eventually, it aims to serve 400 students. Principal Candi Wadsworth says the students’ final project will be building a tiny house. They may not be able to fit it in their backpack, but it’ll give students experience with all aspects of construction. That includes HVAC, electrical and flooring.

“What makes (this school) special is that we’re not only preparing them for college. We acknowledge that college is not for everyone. We want to give students skills so that they know if college is not the path they want to take, they can get good-paying jobs straight out of high school,” she said.

That’s a benefit to students and a motivation to show up. Natasha Garcia’s son will attend the school in the fall. He hasn’t been an eager student before, but this school has captured his interest.

“It’s not just learning about something, they’ll be doing something, hands-on,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve seen him excited for school. I think it’s going to be the change that he needs.”

Perhaps the Clark County School District should take notes as it struggles to fix its problems with chronic absenteeism.

This is the kind of innovation and specialization that charter schools can provide. But they don’t just appear out of nowhere. Numerous industry groups, including the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association and Nevada Subcontractors, provided support to make the school possible. Good for them.

Despite the obvious benefits of charter schools, they’ve faced political opposition. In 2019, some legislative Democrats proposed a temporary moratorium on new charter campuses. Lawmakers wisely rejected that scheme, although they did boost regulations on charter schools. In the past session, Gov. Joe Lombardo signed a bill that allows counties and cities to sponsor charter schools.

Education-minded cities such as North Las Vegas and Henderson would do well to see if trade-focused charter schools would benefit students in their cities.

If you build it, they will come. Just look at the success of Southern Nevada Trades High School.

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