By Selwyn Harris
It’s a sprawling 40-acre facility at the corner of Mt. Charleston and Calvada that’s been sitting empty since the remodeling of Pahrump Valley High School.
The Nye County School District’s (NCSD) Ninth Grade Academy at one time was the stepping-stone for students making the transition from freshman to sophomore status.
The property is a prime piece of real estate and a mere stone’s throw from the main high school campus.
NCSD Superintendent Dale Norton said the facility will remain as it is until he and the board of trustees decide on what to do with it.
“There are no future plans for the facility. That was the plan when we put the new addition together for the high school. Just vacate that structure as well as the “B” building. We have done an inventory of our modulars that are at the very south end of the “B” building. That all used to be part of the high school too, along with Special Education, ROTC and Nevada Pre-K,” he said.
While the classrooms remain empty, the campus still has several uses for the district.
Norton said the facility is now being used for storage and even the gymnasium and locker rooms are being utilized for activities.
“We do have some stuff in there because we stored all of the excess high school stuff in there when they were doing the remodel. A lot of the stuff has since been moved out but there is also stuff that is not being used now that we have to get through and inventory. We need to discard and repair some things. We have to go through it room by room and see what’s going on with the stuff we have stored in there,” he said.
With the county still facing tough economic times, one option for the district would be to sell off the property.
Norton said that he would prefer to keep the property for several reasons.
“That would be a board decision but I wouldn’t recommend that because of the 40-acre parcel that we have there. It is tied in with all of the land that we have for the high school. We will have to assess future needs for that. I really don’t see that selling it is something right now we want to look at doing,” he said.
From the outside, the fenced off facility appears to be structurally sound, but Norton cautioned that sometimes looks can be deceiving.
He suggested that the campus does in fact need a few repairs, some major and some minor.
“It needs some work. It was built in 1973, and I don’t believe there were any add-ons to that. The “B” building was built not long after that where there was an add-on section to that facility. I know that the north part of that facility was added onto because when I came out here in 1990, it was just being finished up on the main entrance and that whole corridor and the classrooms was all added onto,” he said.
The facility has also undergone several transformations over the years.
Norton said that district officials used the campus for other grade levels outside of high school as well.
“I came over in 1993, and just prior to that it had been turned into a fifth and sixth grade center from 1993 to 1996. It then turned into Hafen Elementary School for a year and then it was turned over to the high school around 2002. I opened up the middle school in 2001, and we were still using the gym and the football field because our stuff wasn’t ready,” he said.
Nye County School District Board of Trustees President Traci Ward said that there are many options the district has in terms of deciding what to do with the property.
She also noted that selling the facility is not one of them.
“We are going to hold onto it. Even though the economy is down right now, it doesn’t mean it won’t come back so it really wouldn’t make sense to sell it. There are lots of things that we could do with it. Pathways is our second largest high school and I could see them moving over there. It’s one of those things that is there but we haven’t decided on what to do and a lot of that depends on what the superintendent wants to do. It has sat empty before when we opened up Hafen. It’s not one of those things that we are looking to get rid of because there are things that we could use it for. Right now we are kind of just staying put,” she said.
Ward noted that once the local economy levels out and more jobs become available, there is a good chance that more families will move to Pahrump, which may spur the district to reopen the campus.
“To sell when nothing is really selling and everything is at a low value, it is not a good idea especially if you may have a future use for it and need it. The southern district office can move over there if Mr. Norton thought that area was getting too small. There are lots of things that we can do with it but we haven’t sat down and decided what exactly to do,” she said.
It is not the first time the district was faced with what to do with a facility that was no longer in operation.
In June of 2011, board members voted to close Mt. Charleston Elementary School as a way of saving the district more $700,000 a year.
Ward, who had a child attending the school at the time said it was not an easy nor popular decision.
“That didn’t go over well at home. My son was extremely upset with me for a while but it has been a couple of years and I think he has finally forgiven me,” she said.
It didn’t take long for district officials to determine the future of the elementary school either.
Roughly a month after “mothballing” the campus, trustees voted to lease the facility to Great Basin College.
At the time, Dr. Michael McFarlane, vice president of academic affairs at Great Basin College, told board members the campus would be an ideal location for the college.
“We would be interested in potentially leasing that facility from you for at least a couple of years, and I think there would be some benefits to both of us. You would receive some income from us and in just being there I think that would be a better alternative than having it empty and subject to vandalism,” he said.
Norton, meanwhile, said at present the deal is still in the works.
“I just went through every room at Mt. Charleston this week and we have a lot of stuff that we are storing down there we are going through. I’ve just been gathering up curriculum items,” he said.