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EDITORIAL: NLV micro-academy remains a pandemic success story

The pandemic ushered in a year of innovation for many governments and businesses. In Southern Nevada, one of the most successful examples is the Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy.

While the Clark County School District only recently opened for limited in-person learning, students at the academy have been in the classroom since August. The school, which has about 100 students in first through eighth grade, is a collaboration between the city of North Las Vegas and Nevada Action for School Options. It was created to help students who were struggling with online learning.

“One of the really interesting things about this is that it’s an active partnership with the city,” said Don Soifer, president of Nevada Action for Schools Option.

In order to participate under state regulations, students first had to dis-enroll from the Clark County School District, much like those who home-school do. But that hasn’t been a deterrent. The academy currently has a wait list. And now some supporters are talking about making it permanent. “Nearly all the families enrolled in the program,” the Review-Journal’s Julie Wootton-Greener reported this week, “have said they would like to continue if the academy remains open.”

Last week, Delen Goldberg, the North Las Vegas assistant city manager, announced that the school would indeed continue for the 2021-22 school calendar. “There’s a demand for it,” she said. “People have seen the results.”

Assuming the education bureaucracy doesn’t step in, the academy’s biggest long-term obstacle to survival is money. The school has stayed afloat this far by tapping a portion of the cash North Las Vegas received from Washington for pandemic relief. The city plans a similar approach next year, but must wait to determine what strings come attached to the next round of federal money.

Such one-shot windfalls won’t be available forever, so the academy faces financial challenges ahead. But the positive response from the community once again highlights the importance of providing families with more educational options. Parents deserve the freedom to select a learning program and environment that they believe is best for their children.

The pandemic could very well prove to be a turning point for the school choice movement, as public school teachers unions did themselves no favors by keeping campuses shuttered in many places despite evidence that classrooms could be opened safely and that many students were falling behind thanks to the deficiencies of distance learning. The Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy is further evidence of the parental appetite for allowing children to escape school environments that aren’t meeting their needs.

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