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St. Jude’s partners with school district for $5M facility at healing center

St. Jude’s Ranch for Children in Boulder City has found a school for its new healing center through a partnership with Clark County School District.

“Having an on-site school was always part of the plan,” said Christina Vela, St. Jude’s CEO. “We never intended to run the school. … We always intended to have a partner.”

That partner was finalized at a Dec. 1 Clark County School District meeting.

“Las Vegas has been a hotbed for sex trafficking for many years,” said CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara in a press release. “I look forward to the day when this facility will provide these children the specialized attention they will need, (and they) are able to overcome their traumas and lead healthy and productive lives.”

Vela said she and Jara first talked about the partnership when he visited Boulder City in May for Boulder City High School’s graduation ceremony.

“We are excited about this partnership and hope others see it as a good thing,” she said.

St. Jude’s healing center for victims of sex trafficking will be built on 10 undeveloped acres of its property. It will be separate from the rest of the campus and have homes, an administrative and emergency shelter building and the school. It will serve those 10-18 years old.

The school will serve the healing center’s students, a maximum of 63 including three emergency spots. The school district estimated it will cost $5 million to build the facility and will pay for its construction and operation.

“We believe it’s a wonderful idea,” said Jeff Wagner, CCSD chief of facilities. “It represents an investment of approximately $5 million but allows us to address very specific needs of some of the neediest students that currently aren’t being addressed. … CCSD would operate the school as a CCSD school. St. Jude’s would operate the housing, counseling and other services.”

Vela said the facility will be an alternative school that serves students who are credit deficient and need a different curriculum.

“Putting these students in comprehensive high schools is bad for a number of reasons but primarily what I’m being told … these students are recruited out of comprehensive high schools, so it puts them back into a bad situation,” Wagner added.

Additionally, Vela said the partnership with the school district will reduce the educational gaps of the children who will be at the healing center and then move on to other foster homes and a traditional school setting.

Work on the healing center is expected to start in the first quarter of 2022, according to Vela.

“We are going to align the construction timetable to make sure the school and center open at the same time,” she said.

The healing center is estimated to cost $15 million.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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