Laughlin residents ask CCSD to fix up only elementary school

LAUGHLIN, Nev. -- People living in Laughlin are railing against what they call deplorable conditions in their town's only elementary school.

They say everything from rats to old facilities is making it unhealthy for the kids attending Bennett Elementary School. However, the Clark County School District is painting a different picture.

Bennett Elementary School opened in 1986 and about 90 percent of the schools' students go to class in temporary buildings.

Laughlin residents say Bennett Elementary School is in bad shape. The district says the school is considered to be in good shape, especially when it is compared to other schools in southern Nevada.

Cheryl Crow is a longtime Laughlin resident.

"I don't want to live anywhere else," Crow said, "You can't find anything, I don't think, negative about Laughlin except the fact that we have a lot of trouble getting the county to acknowledge that we have needs."

One of those needs, she and other locals say, is a better elementary school. Crow started a petition she hopes forces CCSD to make changes at the school. She says she already has 500 signatures.

The main concern for parents is modular buildings or portables.

Local businessman Bob Bilbray says he helped facilitate a donation, which led to their installation in the 80s, and they were only supposed to be a temporary fix.

"There was a pressing need for immediate facilities to handle the students that were coming in," Bilbray said.

An article about the groundbreaking from April 1986 in the Laughlin Gambler refers to temporary classrooms.

"I don't think any of us ever contemplated that the facilities would be in a place 30 years," Bilbray said.

Bilbray's own children went to Bennett. Crow's children, including the daughter she works with at her salon and grandchildren, went to the school.

"It's very important to us," Crow said.

People who want something done at the school point to problems that include insufficient heating and air conditioning, grates in the ground where staff report seeing rats and snakes, leaks, shaky ground in bathrooms and a cramped parking lot.

They also say students' having to go outside to walk to a restroom is a safety concern.

CCSD disagrees with those complaints.

"In our review of Bennett, what we found is that it is one of the cleanest and well maintained schools in the district," CCSD chief financial officer James McIntosh said.

McIntosh says the heating, air conditioning, leaks, and grates will be repaired in time for the start of school. Maintenance workers couldn't find rodent droppings or snakes. The district says shaky ground is normal for a portable.

They also say the school is up to code and district wide, there are more than 2,300 portable classrooms and some are more than 50 years old.

"Right now, our only response with Bennett is that we will continue to provide the maintenance required of the facility and unless something fails, there is no plan to replace Bennett at this time," McIntosh said.

So, no matter how many signatures Crow collects, McIntosh says the money just isn't there.

Laughlin residents pay the second highest property tax in Clark County, which is another reason why some residents feel Bennett Elementary School isn't getting the help they feel it needs.

According to the district, property tax dollars has nothing to do with education dollars.

A taxpayer in Laughlin makes the same contribution to schools as a taxpayer in any other part of the county.

The money doesn't stay in Laughlin; it goes into a fund for all Clark County schools.


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