I-Team: Older Las Vegas Schools in Need of Repairs - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Older Las Vegas Schools in Need of Repairs

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LAS VEGAS -- The Clark County School District has dozens of aging schools. According to the school board president, the schools are simply falling apart.  Later this year, the district will ask voters to approve a property tax increase to pay for repairs.

Officials acknowledge it's a tough sell in this economic climate, but they insist the money is for bare bones repairs and not unnecessary luxuries. Under the proposal, property taxes on a home valued at $100,000 would increase by about $74 a year or $6 a month for six years. The nearly $670 million it would generate will pay for badly needed school renovations like air conditioners, plumbing and electrical upgrades. 

Interactive Map of School's Needing Repairs

This is the tale of the two Ruby's. Ruby Duncan Elementary in North Las Vegas opened in 2010. It's among the district's newest and most energy-efficient schools while Ruby Thomas Elementary in Paradise, built in 1963, is among the oldest and most energy-consuming campuses. Air conditioner outages are not unusual.

"We try to put fans in the classroom, or we'll go to a portable. We do the best that we can with what we have," Ruby Thomas teacher Michelle McClellan said.

Slideshow: Ruby Thomas Repair Issues

Making do is part of the educational process for the first grade teacher and her students. In addition to the regular AC outages, just last month, a water main burst forcing the shutdown of the drinking fountains for more than a week. The electrical outlets dangling from the ceiling in teacher Jake Detloff's class don't support all of the latest technology. The classroom square footage falls short too, particularly for the fifth graders.

"We make it work," Ruby Thomas principal Dennis Kubala said.

A tour of the campus by Kubala is a one-stop shop of facilities' frustrations from the water pipes snaking the roof to the crumbling concrete on the wheelchair ramp to the unexplained swamp on the athletic field.

"We have teachers and myself who visit some of the newer schools and we realize there's a lot of advantages to that and we would like to have the same type of opportunity for the children here."

Across town at Ruby Duncan, principal Rick Ditondo beams with pride when describing every corner of his universe. From the spacious courtyards complete with outdoor instructional spaces to the library overlooking the mountains to the roof that will soon support grant-funded solar panels.

"Being able to have the big wide open spaces that we have, the nice natural lighting, the modern technology, all of those things at our teachers and student's disposal just lends itself to a real effective learning environment," Ditondo said.

In Ms. Danielle Davis' first grade class, the large room supports small groups at the smart board, the computers and the sink which this day doubles as a hatchery.

Down the hall, teacher Shannon Brown uses the latest audio/visual equipment to keep her class on the same page. And when it goes off, a wall of energy-efficient windows brightens the space the year-round instead of lights.

"I think the community needs to know that a school that's built like this with all these amenities really keeps the students attending and paying attention in class so that they can really get to where they need to be," Brown said.

The commitment at both schools extends far beyond bricks and mortar. Take the five years of fundraising it took to get smart boards. And while it's slated for a major renovation, pending the approval of the district's capital improvement levy, the facilities at Ruby Thomas will never mirror those at Ruby Duncan. But principal Kubala hopes, one day, the two Rubys won't seem so very different.

"We want all kids to have the same access to education, technology, safety issues, water, heat, electricity, all those kinds of factors. And I think it's only fair to make sure every child has access to that," Kubala said.

Given the tough economy, the district is asking for roughly half of what it needs over the next decade. The facilities director calls the proposal bare bones.

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