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Vegas Parents Look to Microschools as “Normal” School Challenges Continue

Across the Las Vegas Valley, many families have not felt like the virtual learning their schools have put into practice are the right fit for their needs. Some groups, like Las Vegas’ MicroschoolingNV, have quickly dedicated themselves to helping uncomfortable or dissatisfied parents find better-fitting alternatives, including increasingly popular microschooling.

Parents in Southern Nevada, like those all across the country, are experiencing a range of emotions relating to the shape of school amid 2020’s global pandemic. Many working parents continue to struggle to meet the needs of the distance, at-home learning plans their schools are offering, while also supporting their demanding work schedules.

The Clark County School District, serving over 300,000 students, will soon reopen active deliberations about the timeline and possibility of reopening. Pressure to reopen has come both from teachers feeling uncomfortable that their schools’ distance learning strategies can allow them to succeed at their work, and from parents disappointed with the level of education, uneven over-reliance on technology, or lack of support during the day when they are at work.

This crisis is leading parents to think deeply about what matters most to them about their children’s education, and they are increasingly turning to microschooling given its student-driven model and wide range of choices.

For decades Las Vegas families have unknowingly limited their choices to homeschooling, private schools, charters with extensive wait lists and traditional district-run neighborhood and magnet schools. Homeschooling, while it gives kids individual attention and encourages them to find their passions, often means dual-income houses become single-income houses, and can be prohibitive for single-income households, or intimidating for homes where parents lack confidence regarding their own education, which simply isn’t viable for many. But, a new (old) idea has taken Vegas, Phoenix, and cities around the nation by storm.

Microschooling, as they call it, is a return to the old one-room schoolhouse model. Kids—often of varying age and ability—come together to share resources, teachers, and materials. With access to perfectly individualized lessons and experiences online, the small-group setting is used to take on projects and share ideas. Safer, smaller, and more focused, the microschools are picking up momentum everywhere. Models like Prenda, Acton Academies, and Weekdays are positioned to lead an intense evolution in education.  And the homegrown microschools families across Nevada, and across the nation, are launching to meet their children’s learning needs, are gaining in popularity every week.

The microschools are a counterpoint to the experience many parents struggle with in traditional public schools. Kids—empowered with online curricula and the flexibility that enables parents to choose from a wide range of high-quality choices that can best meet their individual needs as learners—are pursuing subjects most interesting to them while they move through standards. Hands-on experiences trump lectures, with small-group activities taking center stage in the classrooms. And, flexibility in schedules offers up room for days chock-full of extracurricular and other activities.

Nevada Action for School Options’ MicroschoolingNV initiative is supporting Nevada microschools, helping them launch successfully with a host of learning tools, technical help, and other pathways to strengthen the quality of equitable educational opportunities.

The Las Vegas–based nonprofit leverages everything from national partnerships and free access and training to world-class content, along with dashboards for parents to track and support their children’s progress.

“We are focused on making [microschools] work to meet the needs of Nevada learners and their families, as effectively as we can,” observed Don Soifer, president of Nevada Action.

These factors are major drivers behind the Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy, a pioneering public-private partnership with the innovative leadership of the City of North Las Vegas. “Microschooling to make the powerless powerful,” as Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown poignantly described this work, is housed in recreation centers and libraries in North Las Vegas under strict health safety protocols, giving children rich, personalized, in-person support for learning. The project has been met with enthusiasm from North Las Vegas residents and first responders, and their families lend daily joy to all of the hard work coaches and team members put in every day. More coverage here and here.

An important “secret sauce” behind microschooling success is a fundamental shift to learners, and families, becoming active participants in their own education trajectories. With the right package of tools and support, children whose parents have opted for homeschooling are able to thrive across the Las Vegas Valley, with learning growth often surpassing any from their prior schooling experiences.