Las Vegas Day School was founded by Helen and Jack Daseler in 1961, and this fall officially begins our 60th anniversary. I thought it might be nice to share a little background on my parents and what things were like starting a private school sixty years ago.
My father was a career educator who worked as a teacher in California, as a principal in Europe, and finally a superintendent for the Department of Defense Dependents school system in Germany, France, and Turkey. At that time, due to the large number of U.S. military families who were stationed overseas, they had their own school system for children of enlisted personnel, better known as dependents. After years of being in public education, he decided to start a private school founded on a challenging 3R (reading, writing, arithmetic) program along with stressing study habits and discipline. As Dad told everyone, “I want to run a no nonsense school that gets down to teachers teaching and children learning without following every new fangled idea that comes out in education.”
Having grown up in California and wanting to be in the West, he contacted an old friend who was a U.S. Magistrate in Las Vegas to see whether or not there were any private schools in the area. As it turned out in 1961, there were no other private schools in the entire state of Nevada. While he was still in Europe, my father sent money to his friend to run an ad in the Las Vegas Sun newspaper to see who might be interested in a private school. Lo and behold! They received inquiries from twenty interested parents for a school that didn’t exist. So off to Las Vegas we went, Mom and Dad, Neil, Jack, and Frank – ages six, four and two.
The school started with only seventeen preschool, kindergarten, first and second graders, three of whom were the Daseler boys, in two rented rooms that were part of the Unitarian Fellowship building on Bond Road which is now Tropicana Avenue. With two VW buses, Mom and Dad picked up the children around the valley in the morning, taught all day, transported the children home, then returned in the afternoon to sweep the floors, wash the chalkboards, prepare the lessons, and get ready for the next school day.
The desks were purchased surplus from the Clark County School District for $2.50 each and repainted the color that each child wanted. Needless to say, a colorful look for potentially drab rented rooms. Things began to show promise with the first year enrollment growing to over thirty students with forty additional students in different grade levels who were interested in the upcoming year creating essentially a one room schoolhouse. The rented buildings were not truly suited to be a school, so something had to change. Mom and Dad were lucky enough to have a family in school who owned five acres of land at Jones Blvd. and Desert Inn Road. This family deeded the land to Mom and Dad so that they could borrow money and build the school using the land as collateral. My Dad was able to perform some real miracles in getting two buildings constructed during that summer, and the LVDS campus was born. There was no running water that far out in the valley, so a well was dug along with a septic tank. Without power to the area, a generator was used to provide electricity for the four classrooms. Power lines came within the next year as did ninety additional students. Applications for the following school year encouraged the addition of four more classrooms and enrollment settled in at roughly two hundred students over the next few years.
The work, however, never seemed to stop for either Mom or Dad. In those days, Mom taught kindergarten and loved to remind everyone that everything you ever learned, you learned in kindergarten. Dad migrated from teaching second grade to the middle school as the German teacher. In addition to teaching, Dad coached basketball; Mom took care of payroll, banking, and all the bills. They drove buses when drivers didn’t show up, and even cleaned classrooms when the only custodian called in sick, (often I might add). As a young man, I, too, found myself with my father always up at the school working on weekends: weeding, painting, cleaning – whatever it took to make ends meet. I remember him meeting parents or even interviewing teachers in his sweaty work clothes. As my father would always say, the school was both his work as well as his hobby.
In 1980, the school began to enlarge to meet the needs of the community with the construction of additional classrooms, the Elementary Gymnasium, and numerous remodeling projects. Over the ensuing years, the school grew to an enrollment of 500 students in grades PK to 8 with two classes of each grade level and a staff of 50.
In 2001, we started the first phase of construction for our entirely new campus master plan on five acres of land located directly behind the original school on Red Rock Street. The plan included the Kinderschool facility for preschool, pre-kindergarten, and kindergarten, twenty elementary classrooms, music, art and computer rooms, a beautiful modern library, and a state of the art middle school. Once the new classrooms were completed the original facility was demolished in June of 2009. The middle school gymnasium and athletic field opened in August of 2016 completing the campus master plan. Today, the campus comprises 135,000 square feet on 17 acres with an enrollment of 750 students and a faculty and staff of 135 people.
Las Vegas Day School prides itself on touching the lives of thousands of children in the Las Vegas community. Today, the school is educating numerous second-generation children whose parents attended the school. Las Vegas Day School stands in honor of Helen and Jack Daseler’s perseverance, hard work, and lifelong dedication to education, but more importantly, as a legacy of quality education for future generations to follow.
Certainly, the stories could go on and on, but I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse back in time on the history of Las Vegas Day School. I will always be grateful to my parents for all their hard work and perseverance. Without them fulfilling the dream of starting a private school sixty years ago, we would not be where we are today. I would encourage all of you to visit our Art Complex to check out the two shadow boxes of old school photographs. We are proud of our history and are looking forward to a bright, promising future of continuing to provide the finest quality education to our students.
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