Henderson Left With a Hole

Loss of private school creates imbalance in Valley, opportunity for others

The shock may just be wearing off, and now parents and students at Henderson International School are left to ponder the future. The Feb. 28 announcement that the school is closing two of its three campuses and eliminating its high school program left an imbalance in the Valley concerning private schools.

The loss of Henderson International leaves Lake Mead Christian Academy as the only private high school within Henderson, and one of six in the Valley, with most located in the northwest.

Henderson International’s Sandy Ridge campus, which houses fifth through 12th grades, is in limbo and there has not been an announcement as to the fate of the facilities. Fifth- through eighth-grade students will move to the school’s Sunridge Campus for the 2010-11 school year.

Admissions at other local private high schools were in mid-swing at the time the announcement was made, leaving many high schoolers a little late to the party.

Faith Lutheran Jr./Sr. High School and The Meadows School in Summerlin are both receiving inquiries and applications from Henderson International high school students. According to Megan Hakes, spokesperson for Meritas, Henderson International’s parent organization, school administrators are trying to help students transfer to other private high schools in the Valley.

“It’s a difficult situation and one that was emotional and hard for some people,” Hakes says. “It’s no secret that the economic climate that has hit this country has hit Las Vegas particularly hard. … There were many parents at the school who couldn’t make their tuition payments.”

Hakes says measures such as lowering tuition were tossed around to no avail. “There were a number of considerations that were made,” she says. “We came to the decision that the high school wasn’t sustainable.”

As of March 10, Faith Lutheran received six applications from students and has been contacted by 15 families of Henderson International students. The Meadows has accepted six students.

“I expect we will certainly equal this year’s attendance or grow a little bit,” says Kevin Dunning, Faith Lutheran executive director. “We’re at our building capacity, so we don’t have a lot of room to expand at this point.”

Faith Lutheran, a nonprofit, has survived the recession virtually unscathed. In the past, the school looked into opening a second campus in southeast Las Vegas, but the recession stepped in the way, Dunning says.

Dunning says tuition costs could have been Henderson International’s undoing. This school year, tuition and fees ranged from $17,571 for ninth through 11th grades and $17,846 for seniors. In comparison, Faith Lutheran posted its 2010-11 tuition at $9,100 for all students. At The Meadows, the 2010-11 tuition and fees add up to $21,200 for high school students.

“If you could do it at a lower price point, I think there is definitely the population [in the southeast area] to support it,” Dunning says. “We’re having a good year if at the end of the year we’ve broken even. And we can adjust our tuition accordingly.”

Henry Chanin, headmaster at The Meadows, has lived in Henderson for 30 years and believes the city could support a private high school—once the economy has settled. The Meadows now has a waiting list longer than Chanin can remember in the last decade for incoming freshmen.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Chanin says. “We’ve seen an increase in demand despite the recession because parents are fearful of what’s going on in the public schools.”

The closing of Henderson International’s high school also leaves the nationally ranked Findlay Prep basketball program without a home. The program was added to the school in 2006 and brought talented players from all over the country. The team currently is 29-2 and ranked No. 3 by USA Today, which reported on Feb. 28 that founder and auto magnate Cliff Findlay vows to find the team a home. Attempts to contact Findlay were unsuccessful.

The Pilots are scheduled to play again in Baltimore on April 1-3 at the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational, which they won in 2009. There has been no announcement as to the team’s future.

Chanin expressed sadness regarding the situation at Henderson International.

“We felt very bad for the families for the dislocation,” he says. “We’re all educators. We want the best for kids.”

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