Nye County school officials are expected to close Duckwater School amid declining enrollments at the remote facility that’s more than four hours northeast of the district offices in Pahrump.
At its peak in the 2000s, Duckwater School provided public education for as many as 22 kindergarten to eighth-grade students in the area, Nye County Assistant Superintendent Kyle Lindberg told the Pahrump Valley Times, but only five are currently enrolled there, he said.
Enrollment at Duckwater could fall to just two students for the 2023-24 academic year, according to district projections, and most agree that keeping the school open hardly makes sense.
“The two students that will be affected [by the closure] next year will be a fourth-grader and a third-grader,” Lindberg said. “They will have the ability to attend the in-person tribal school in Duckwater.”
The private Duckwater Shoshone School is within steps of Nye County’s public Duckwater School and serves roughly a dozen tribal students on the surrounding Duckwater reservation.
Some ‘closure’ ahead of the closure
Seventeen stakeholders gathered at Duckwater School last month, after education officials posted announcements about the proposal and invited folks together to talk about what closing the facility would mean for the community of about 100 residents — depending on the season.
“It was an open discussion with the group as many people shared their concerns and understanding of what it takes to keep a school open,” Lindberg said. “They discussed the out-of-pocket costs to run a school and they all agreed that if the possibility down the road of the population increasing, that we could possibly open it up again.”
Last month’s meeting was also a sort of reunion for many former Duckwater students and teachers who met there over food to talk about the stark realities facing the tight-knit community.
Because of its remote location, it’s difficult to provide essential services there.
Accessed by occasionally treacherous dirt roads, Duckwater includes the Yomba Shoshone tribal headquarters, a community center, homes and a gas station. Many travel about 70 miles to Ely for services.
“If you don’t have a good car, a reliable vehicle or a telephone out there, you are really, really barred from accessing just anything,” Tribal Administrator Janet Weed told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last fall, after the publication reported on the challenges Duckwater voters faced during the 2022 mid-term elections.
With unreliable and spotty access to postal services, a couple of members of the tribe went on horseback to pick up ballots for people in the presidential election of 2022, and then Weed and another member hand-delivered them in Tonopah.
The potential closure of a community school is just the latest challenge for Duckwater.
Lindberg said the board of education is expected to consider the school’s closing at its March 23 meeting in Tonopah.
A live stream of the meeting will be available on the district’s website.
Contact Editor Brent Schanding at email@example.com
In 2019, the Duckwater School’s elementary department received five stars from the Nevada School Performance Framework, the state’s highest rating for public schools. It was the first school in Nye County to receive the five-star ranking, which is based on factors including students’ standardized test scores.