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Survey: Most open to one district

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By David Giuliani

When it comes to combining the two local school districts, some politicians say it’ll never happen and it’s not an option.

But a recent survey of residents shows that nearly 90 percent of respondents favor at least considering consolidation.

The two Las Vegas municipalities combined in 1970, but the local school districts never followed suit.

During the spring semester, Highlands University professor Margaret Young’s marketing research class gauged the community’s attitudes on joining the Las Vegas City Schools and West Las Vegas districts.

She said the class went into the project thinking that most would oppose such an idea, but the results showed otherwise. For instance, nearly 79 percent of the 229 respondents agreed that the consolidation issue should be put to a vote during school elections. And only 10 percent believe that joining the districts would negatively impact students.

“I wasn’t expecting those results at all,” the professor said.

The class’ survey provided numbers that show both Hispanic and Anglo respondents answered similarly to the idea of consolidation. Seventy percent considered themselves Hispanic, while 20 percent called themselves Anglo.

According to the survey, 23 percent of respondents had children registered at West; the same percentage had students at East.

The class’ report did concede that there may be a potential bias in that people favoring consolidation may be more likely to take time to fill out the survey, which was passed out in town and published in the Optic. Still, the class maintained, the results were “quite stunning.”

Young said she considered the survey a pilot study. She said a possibility for a followup could be a scientific poll in which graduate students could call people at random by phone, which would more accurately gauge community attitudes.

West Las Vegas school board member Gary Gold said the class’ survey should “open our eyes” about conducting a study on the issue, determining the effects of consolidation.

“It’s hard to make a decision without knowing all the facts and knowing the impacts on the community,” Gold said. “We should focus on being one community.”

Many have feared that one local school district would mean the closure of one of the two high schools, but most consolidation advocates say they only want to join the two bureaucracies, not shut down schools.

Local activist Lorenzo Flores said he opposes consolidation, contending that it would mean the diminishing of influence of the west side, which is smaller in population. He said he feared that a school such as West Las Vegas’ Armijo Elementary School, which has many students from local public housing developments, would suffer from the joining of the districts.

“I have talked to a lot of people on both sides of town. People like the way things are,” he said. “Some of those elements (pushing consolidation) might not have the best interests of Las Vegas in mind. Many of them are not native to the area.”