LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Clark County School District (CCSD) may be one of the country’s largest school districts, but as families increasingly leave it for other learning options, students are taking funding with them.
It comes on the heels of a sharp decrease in enrollment following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when classes were initially moved completely online. As the Las Vegas Valley and the world began to lift restrictions and return to “normal,” some parents decided to replace their children’s learning.
Ava Mucikyan was one of the parents who pulled her then-8-year-old son out of a CCSD elementary school when classes did not immediately return in person.
“I don’t blame the teachers, it is hard,” she said. “You can’t even handle your one or two kids, let alone 25 kids of five-six-seven years old.”
Homeschooling was the first alternative, which she told 8 News Now was a “fiery disaster” while attempting to balance her child’s education and her business. Then, she found a new alternative: a private school.
“They do small group classes. They do up to, I think 10 [students] per class, and there’s a good mix of older-younger kids. It goes until eighth grade,” Mucikyan said. “Now he’s thriving. He’s wanting to show that he knows, and I think that was really the turning point for me, to not want to go back to anything larger than 10 kids per class. I’ve noticed academically he’s doing so much better.”
Even schooling that currently looks much as it did back in 2020 is thriving months after restrictions were lifted.
Odyssey Charter Schools, for example, has utilized a hybrid of in-person and online learning for the past 22 years, according to Superintendent Timothy Lorenz. He said it grew the student body when most school halls remained empty and continue to increase to this day.
“We feel like we have the best of both worlds,” Lorenz said during a phone interview Thursday afternoon. “We’re a smaller learning community, and we’re also a blended learning model. So that really keeps our numbers, as far as the number of students on campus at one time, very low.”
Smaller class sizes and more individualized attention are the benefits that seemingly are pulling CCSD students outside the district. It means less in the school year’s operating budget, though officials did not immediately respond to what aspects of learning it will impact.
A report from Thursday night’s school board meeting showed a revised enrollment number of 300,029. In September, that number was estimated at 303,061. The new estimate is almost 2,500 students less than what it was for the 2021-2022 school year, and about 25,000 students less than its most recent peak in the 2018-2019 school year.
Another report during Thursday night’s school board meeting showed that CCSD receives $7,361 in state funding per student each school year. With the new estimate for the 2022-2023 school year, it means $32.6 million less in the operating budget than what the district originally anticipated.
In a statement from a CCSD communications representative, the district “has noticed impacts related to a drop in the birth rate since 2008, a number of families moving out of Clark County and out of state during the pandemic as well as due to recent state legislation that changed age eligibility for kindergarten students that began this school year. CCSD continues to analyze trends, monitor residential developments, and manage classroom space needs to provide a conducive learning environment for all students.”
Compared to the roughly 380 CCSD schools, Publicschoolreview.com reports that 103 private schools serve nearly 23,000 Clark County students and 70 charter schools serve over 53,800 Clark County students.