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Teachers unhappy with school remodel

As Boulder City High School awaits a makeover to modernize its 66-year-old campus, several teachers are displeased with how it’s being done.

Seven Boulder City High School teachers signed a letter to the Boulder City Review in December, criticizing the upcoming remodel for its smaller rooms, as well as the absence of tradition.

Bill Strachan, Cheryl Herr, Garth Schulz, Leslie and Joe Ringen, Jennifer Marchant, and Canaan Petersen were the teachers who signed the letter. Strachan said he also heard from additional teachers who did not sign the letter, but still wanted to say how unhappy they were about the upcoming changes.

Strachan, who graduated from the school in 1978, said the school needs to be updated, but tearing it down and building a new one isn’t the solution.

“We’re upset,” he said. “There are things that need to be updated. We have no problem with that. But why tear the whole thing down to update? I love the conditions we’re working in because of the natural light and multiple accesses. I’m just not seeing any specific problems for anybody. We’re not going to have it great anymore.”

The school was originally promised a four-phase replacement in 1998, but the Clark County School District only completed one of those phases when a new gymnasium and library were built in 2004. Since then, no other changes have been made.

In October, the School Board granted Boulder City High School $16.3 million in funding for new classrooms and administrative facilities to replace the original ones built in 1948. Construction is set to break ground in June and is expected to take a year to complete.

The teachers displaced by construction will teach in portables during the next school year.

Even with brand new facilities in line to replace the heavily outdated ones, Strachan said the new Boulder City High School will lose its singularity among the rest of the schools within the district.

“It comes down to the teaching that’s going to take place and what’s best for the kids. We have the best classrooms in the school district, and we’re going to be forced to take a step back with prison-like situations with no windows and natural light,” he said. “This is a strong building and a strong school.”

But some of the school’s outdated units are the biggest reasons for a full replacement, according to Principal Amy Wagner. The school still operates on a two-pipe system, which prohibits the use of heat and air conditioning at the same time.

“We can’t run both,” Wagner said. “It’s a big decision when we decide to shut down the air. As soon as I shut it down, we don’t have air until I switch it back over in April. That’s a very outdated system. It’s horrible.”

A few teachers were forced to teach classes outside when the air conditioning went out during the first month of the school year, but Strachan said that’s the only legitimate issue that’s brought up during the talk for building a new school.

“We have great kids, but we also have great teachers and great facilities,” Strachan said. “Newer isn’t always better.”

Mark McGinty of SH Architecture, the company in charge of building the new school, said every part of the new facility will be in working order when the project is complete. The air conditioning, electrical, computer, and fire and lights safety systems will all be replaced, he said.

Overcrowding was also an issue addressed by the teachers’ letter. The new classrooms will be between the district’s standards of 750 to 850 square feet. Strachan said his current classroom is about 1,100 square feet.

Schulz, who graduated from Boulder City High School in 1986, also taught at Silverado and Del Sol High School before coming back to teach in Boulder City. He said the district’s current classrooms are too small, which isn’t something he’s had to worry about while teaching at Boulder City High School.

“I think a big part of why we are successful in Boulder City is because we have so much space and so much stuff in our classrooms now that we won’t have in a smaller classroom,” he said. “It won’t function as well. They’re more confining.”

Schulz said even though the school can’t generate heat and air conditioning at the same time, it isn’t worth sacrificing classroom size to replace it.

“It’s definitely not worth giving up classroom size. There are only a few days a year when we wish we had heat before the heat came on, and when we wish we had air before the air came on,” he said.”It only affects us a few days a year, where classroom size affects us every single day.”

According to Wagner, the average class size at Boulder City High School is between 30 and 32 students. She said she understands the frustration of those teachers unhappy with the upcoming changes, but they need to be done.

“Can they (the teachers) still do what they need to do in the classrooms? Yes they can,” she said. “It’s going to be different. They’re going to look different, but that’s out of my hands.”

Contact reporter Steven Slivka at sslivka@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow @StevenSlivka on Twitter.

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