By HILLARY DAVIS, Las Vegas Sun
GOODSPRINGS, Nev. (AP) — Goodsprings Elementary School principal Tati Hadavi watches as one of her teachers leans over a table to gently brush long hair from a student’s eyes as she reads.
With two teachers for the five students in Goodsprings, a desert village about 45 minutes south of Las Vegas, the teachers are like aunts who also provide one-on-one instruction daily.
“Look at that. It’s beautiful,” Hadavi told the Las Vegas Sun. “Their scores, their growth shows it.”
The school, along with an elementary, middle and high school in nearby Sandy Valley, are the only schools in the mostly urban Clark County School District to meet only four days a week.
The schools, which are run by a single administrative team, just received their fifth consecutive approval from the district school board to continue their alternate Monday-Thursday schedule.
When trustees seek board member approval every two years, they tout measurable benefits: attendance above district averages, class time far beyond state standards and comparable to a typical city school, academic growth and few disciplinary problems.
“Sandy Valley Schools and Goodsprings Elementary School are very unique communities in a rural area of southern Nevada,” reads the proposal from the trustees’ meeting in late March.
All three Sandy Valley schools are located in the same complex, with each school having its own building.
In 2019-20, the last year virtually untouched by the pandemic, attendance ranged from 94% to 96%, up to 2 percentage points above the CCDS as a whole. The previous year, it was between 91% and 94%.
Students at Sandy Valley and Goodsprings schools are in class 423 minutes a day, or 7 hours and 3 minutes, excluding lunch breaks.
Classroom hours are equivalent to the approximately five-and-a-half-hour days that other elementary schools typically spend in class at SDCC in a conventional week.
Nevada requires a minimum of four hours a day for children in kindergarten through second grade, five hours for students in third through sixth, and five and a half hours for students in seventh through 12th grade.
Sandy Valley College has four out of five stars according to the Nevada State Department of Education‘s Academic Performance Framework. Primary and secondary schools were awarded three stars. In 2017-18, the primary school had only one star. (Goodsprings is too small for a star rating).
Last year, Sandy Valley High graduated 100% of its seniors.
And, notably, a survey of students, staff and parents in both communities gave 98.9% in favor of the four-day week. On Fridays, student-athletes can travel to remote games, older students can work, and staff can attend to personal matters.
Some school district officials were skeptical of the four-day week when board members approved it as a pilot program in 2012. It has since been easily renewed.
Hadavi came to the countryside two and a half years ago after serving as a middle school and high school administrator east of Las Vegas. While in the countryside, Sandy Valley never argued. Children are different here – “soft”, he said.
The four schools have 271 children, 32 teachers and 20 support staff, all but a handful at the Sandy Valley complex. A few staff members, like Hadavi, split their time.
In an exceptionally diverse district – the fifth largest in the United States, with over 300,000 students – Goodsprings Elementary stands out.
The building, which began life as a one-room schoolhouse, is 109 years old and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It has been upgraded to modern standards – it now includes two classrooms, two bathrooms, a small library and a smaller kitchen, as well as offices and storage space.
The exterior walls and the gabled bell tower, however, recall the typical silhouette of the school of the beginning of the century.
The antique mechanical bell is still operational, pushed by a long-handled rope that hangs through the modern drop ceiling, and a student is responsible for ringing it to start the day.
Afterwards, the group spins outside, where another student helps hoist the Nevada and United States flags on the mast, and the group pledges allegiance just steps from hopscotch squares and tetherballs.
This year there are five students. Last year there were 10.
Goodsprings is one of four schools of more than 350 in SDCC that have remained entirely in-person when others were forced into remote learning during the coronavirus lockdown. There has never been an outbreak.
In Sandy Valley, about 15 minutes away, Year 10 student Annet Arce said she was leading a peaceful life. On Fridays, she is at home on her family’s 2 acres with their cows and goats.
Ninth-grade student Lionel Corona was born in Las Vegas and attended Von Tobel Middle School in northeast Las Vegas before attending Sandy Valley. He said he received more attention at Sandy Valley because the classes were smaller.
His day is longer, “but I hardly notice it”.
Kristin Wolf is an interventionist who works primarily with elementary students in Sandy Valley who need extra help with math. She was previously a mathematics teacher in a large college, where students only had 50-minute periods to assimilate the material.
In Sandy Valley, there are more minutes for everything, including math.
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