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Breaking up is hard to do, especially for the Clark County School District, but an effort is underway

Vegas Schools Reopening
AP Photo/John Locher

Amanda Pease cleans a desk in a classroom during a media tour at Dorothy Eisenberg Elementary School, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Las Vegas.

When some of the hottest Clark County School District issues like overcrowded classrooms or school funding are debated, one of the go-to proposals is to break up the district.

It’s the fifth largest school district in the country with 320,000 students. It also spans beyond the Las Vegas Valley into several small Southern Nevada towns.  

Breaking up the district is difficult because school districts are defined as county-wide institutions in the state constitution. Past efforts, whether grassroots or legislative, to break up the district haven’t worked out. 

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That isn’t stopping Dan Stewart from trying. He’s leading a new effort called “The Community Schools Initiative.” He said he wants to change the law and make it so communities can create their own school districts.

"In the early 1950s, it was determined that Nevada would define its school districts based on the county boundaries, so 17 counties in the state of Nevada, now we have 17 school districts. Obviously back then when there were, I don't know, 500,000 people in the entire state, probably less than that, that worked fine. But now when we have 2.4 million in just Clark County," he said. 

He's aware of the hurdles many have tried to pass before him, and what it will take to be successful in this effort. "It's going to be complicated," he said. "It's going to be very hard."

"We're trying to take an initial bite of the apple and all we are trying to do with this initiative is enable a community to form their own school district," he said. "How that is going to be done, obviously, would need to be worked out, but we don't want to get all wrapped around the axle with way too many complex issues at first has to be figured out."

He said the initiative is to create the ability for communities to break off into smaller school districts. 

Kristen Kidman is the senior producer at KNPR’s State of Nevada and is proud to be from Las Vegas.