The Clark County School District was established in 1956. “It felt small because it was small,” says 1967 Western alumna Kate Kaplan. At that time, Las Vegas’ population was a mere 60,000 and consisted of only five schools—Las Vegas High, Rancho, Western, Bishop Gorman and Basic. Since then, the district grew from five to 49 high schools, with more than 216 elementary and 59 middle schools, making Clark County the fifth largest district in the United States today.
The size isn’t the only thing that’s changed. We caught up with some CCSD alumni and current students to get their thoughts on Las Vegas high schools.
This district is way too large. That causes a lot of problems. As a sophomore in high school, our school district here was a lot better than Los Angeles city schools. Now, you compare us to some of these big cities, and we’re number five [in size] in the United States, and we’re a relatively small city. –Anita Ziegler, Western class of 1967
At times it’s hard to hear [in class] because kids sit there and don’t pay attention, and with more students, that’s hard. Most of my classes are full and we have had to bring in extra desks. I would say we have about 40 [kids in a class]. –Jocelyn Tadeo, junior at Western
History is missing in Vegas because we like to implode. You blow it up and you build something else; they’re all made of Styrofoam. In other cities, your downtown is maintained and respected and revered. Here it’s not, sadly. A lot of the things done here in town are done short-term with the monetary return in mind. Working with the alumni association for Las Vegas high school, one of our objectives is to help the student body of [Las Vegas High School] understand where they’re going to school and what [it means] to the city. –Susan Lowe and Matt Shlisky, Las Vegas High School classes of 1964 and 1965
This year in my history class, we took a tour of the school. Everybody kind of complained about it, like, “Ugh, we have to walk around [campus],” but it was fun learning about [the past]. Education needs to be more prominent [on how things have] changed … including the campus’ switch from public to magnet. –Savannah Urcioli, senior at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts (formerly Las Vegas High School)
There was so much spirit [compared to now]. I just had my 50th reunion and we all went to the homecoming game. There was hardly anybody in the stands. The floats that came around were so minimized. There was no spirit in that school at all. None. When we were in school, we would go after school, build those floats, and we just put so much pride and spirit into it. People actually went to the dances. It’s so sad now. They don’t even know the original fight song. –Barbara DiPaolo, Western class of 1967
For me, Western is spirited. Yet, I can understand how some of the students don’t really get into it. It’s usually because certain teams, like the football team, for instance, don’t play as a team. It’s more like everyone is just there for themselves. –Angel Luna Limon, junior at Western
There’s certainly much more for high school kids to do [today], but perhaps it’s not as much fun. … The friends you made were lifelong. We get together every, probably, six months or so. This summer we’re going to Mount Charleston to have a picnic and talk about the old days. Thirty to 50 percent of the class turns out. –Joe Lupo, Bishop Gorman class of 1964
I have hung out with the same eight girls for forever. I think that since the schools have grown so much, not everyone really knows everyone. People do fall into their groups, and it’s more cliquey. On the weekends, you’ll hit up some other people and hang out with other small groups. –Natalia Chiodo, junior at Bishop Gorman