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Pahrump parents, students speak out on potential online school closings

Local parents and students aired their displeasure with public schools and gave reasons to why the state should keep online-based schools open last week.

At the Charter School Authority meeting on March 25 in Las Vegas, residents from all over the region took advantage of their three minutes to sway the board to vote to keep their virtual schools open, as the board found the schools to be under-performing compared to other school in the state.

Several Pahrump residents were among those who spoke and they explained that living in a smaller town, having the option to learn at home is a much-needed service.

Jessica Detmers, a mother of three whose kids go to Nevada Connections Academy, explained she’s believes the education her kids get online is better in those in public school that her children regularly associate with.

“These kids that mix with my children, their learning, it blows me away,” she said. “My kids can sit there and give definitions of words… to where these other kids don’t know what a word means and they can’t place it in a sentence and they can’t define it in a sentence, which is something they’re learning in connections academy.”

Despite not seeing their instructors on a regular basis, Detmer explained that her kids are closer than they would be with teachers in a public school.

“They get to know their teachers, if there is a problem they can web mail their teachers,” she said. “They usually get back to them if not that day, the next school day.

“My kids get attached to their teachers every year. The teachers call them weekly to talk to them and make sure everything’s OK.”

A local elementary student, Jordan Torres, explained having the option to go to online school enables her to do more activities and travel outside of class than she did when she went to J.G. Johnson Elementary.

“One of the benefits is the gifted and talented program,” Torres said. “None of the elementaries in Pahrump had a G.A.T.E. program. The curriculum was easy and boring; it never felt like I was being challenged.

“This school has always given me new and challenging curriculum that makes sure that I am always learning something new.”

Another reason Torres loves going to Nevada Connections Academy is being able to see her father, who lives across the country.

“Since my dad lives in Virginia it’s hard to find time to visit him,” she said.

Torres was able to rearrange her schedule to visit her father three weeks before spring break by doing a week of work while visiting her dad out of state for her two-week trip.

Torres also credited the ability to go to school virtually allows her to participate in outside programs that aren’t offered in town.

“Since I live in an area that doesn’t have a lot of extracurricular activities, I’ve been able to go to Vegas to cheer in an advanced cheer program where we go to competitions,” she said.

She said she also partakes in drumming and voice lessons outside of Pahrump as well.

If the option to go an online school is taken away from area students, then Torres said they’ll have to make a rough decision in her opinion.

“Every kid in Pahrump that goes to school is going to have to choose between going to a private Christian academy or a school that quite frankly doesn’t care about us.

“Please don’t take this opportunity away from us,” she said.

Leaders from each online-based school in question argued that they should have been given more time to improve student progress and to properly address the poor performance accusations.

The almost seven-hour hearing culminated with a tie vote, forcing the board to remove the issue from the agenda but said that it could be brought up at a later date.

The scrapping of the agenda item also gives the schools more time to work with the state on improving its students’ performance, so if and when it is brought up again they can have evidence of improved results to ward off any potential closings.

Contact reporter Mick Akers at makers@pvtimes.com. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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