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Las Vegas Academy Campus On Track To Expand, Get Face Lift

The Jewel of the Desert has lost some of its shine.

Las Vegas High School garnered that nickname when it opened in 1930 as a glittering example of Art Deco architecture in the southeast outskirts of a middling railroad town.

Today the campus, now home to the Las Vegas Academy performing arts high school, is a downtown landmark that is feeling its age, in need of better plumbing, air conditioning, and lighting.

The Las Vegas High School Alumni Association is seeking $46,000 from the Las Vegas Centennial Commission to conduct an engineering study and develop options to address the needs of the campus’ aging buildings, two of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Bruce Langson is part of the alumni association. He said he has crawled through every part of the buildings of the school as he personally inspected the property to see what needed to be done. Now, he believes a professional team needs to look at it. 

“We need a third party experienced person to do an evaluation,” he said 

Langson said the report will give the school district a good foundation and a roadmap for improvements. Improvements that he and other members of the alumni association know need to happen.

“We recognize there are some changes that need to occur to support the services necessary for the new uses of the campus,” he said. 

This comes at the same time that the Clark County School District is developing the Las Vegas Academy Legacy Project, a master plan for the campus on South Seventh Street and Bridger Avenue. 

“The intent is to preserve historic elements of the campus while, at the same time, modernizing and expanding the facilities,” the Clark County School District said in a statement.

Rick Smith is a local real estate developer and is on a committee looking at changes to the campus. He said his committee, LVA, and CCSD all want to preserve the historic elements of the school but eliminate some of the non-descript modular structures that were just added for temporary space.

“The community is very much invested in the historic preservation of particularly Frazier Hall and the main building,” he said.

Part of the Legacy Project could include new construction at the south end of campus, which is currently a vacant field.

This section of the plan has members of the alumni association concerned. They point to what happened at both Rancho High School and Boulder City High School as a basis for their worry. Both high schools needed more space, so new buildings were built next to historic parts of the campuses, but instead of preserving the old buildings they were torn down.  

Smith was quick to reassure everyone that wasn't going to happen.

“I think everyone at the table is committed to that not happening, very specifically it must not happen,” he said.

Smith called the five buildings the alumni association are most worried about the "heart and soul" of our community's education. 

The district has set a June 26 meeting to update the public about the master plan; it will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on campus at the Las Vegas Academy Performing Arts Center.

Bruce Langson, Las Vegas High School Alumni Association; Rick Smith, Las Vegas Academy supporter

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.