New Effort Launched to Improve Downtown Schools - 8 News NOW

New Effort Launched to Improve Downtown Schools

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LAS VEGAS -- Community leaders say kids are struggling in downtown Las Vegas schools, where many cannot speak English.

More than 60 groups gathered together Friday at Cashman Center to figure out a long-term solution.

The education gap, which experts say can start as early as elementary school, can have major ramifications down the line for students entering the job market.

The new Downtown Achieves movement is trying to stop the education gap before it begins.

Gibson Middle School band director Pablo Navarro helps kids learn the language of music.

"They've learned to associate the symbols and the sounds and the music with the teaching," Navarro said.

He has helped many downtown students, who can play an instrument, but can't read the English on the sheet music.

It is something tough for other students to see.

"They wouldn't know what to do in class and pay attention," Gibson Middle School 8th grader Saul Olguin said.

"You're used to speaking this language and then you're new to a different one. It is kind of hard," Yareth Pascual, who also attends Gibson Middle School, said.

Community leaders met to brainstorm solutions to not only close the language gap, but stop the cycle of poverty and raise test scores in downtown schools. The new movement is called Downtown Achieves.


School leaders say breaking down English language barriers is one of the biggest problems for downtown schools.

"Academic vocabulary allows them to go into any job that they choose in the future and be successful," Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman says bringing community members together is what has been needed for years to help downtown kids get what they need.

"What can you do? What can you carry? Is it transportation? Getting our children and moving them place to place? Is it about early education and having our children learn coming in, new to the community?" Goodman said.

With community and teacher support, Navarro has watched his kids change in mere months

"They come speaking no English whatsoever and then, they can carry on conversations by the end of the school year," Navarro said.

Navarro says with community support, there will soon be no excuses for any child to fall through the cracks.

More than 200 people showed up Friday to brainstorm solutions to problems in downtown areas.

The Downtown Achieves project is part of a nationwide movement to rid kids of poverty and raise graduation rates.

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