Maintaining a quality education for students in remote rural areas is not always easy, but having advocates to help recognize and address the long standing needs within a school and community helps students receive proper access to resources. Through a collaboration of the Humboldt County School District (HCSD), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Lithium Nevada, and the Orovada community, the groundwork for a new K-8 public school is underway.
The BLM recently initiated a public comment period in order to convey 40 acres of land to Humboldt County for the new school. According to Humboldt County School District Superintendent, Dr. Dave Jensen, a new school for Orovada students has been on the district’s wish list for a long time, but it has not been fiscally possible until Lithium Nevada came into the picture.
“This is a circa-1950s building up in Orovada and to be able to provide additional opportunities to our youth in Orovada would make a long-standing, profound difference and the District didn’t have the funds to do that. We really became reliant on Lithium to partner,” explained Dr. Jensen.
As Lithium Nevada honed in on plans for the mine site in 2021, it was determined that the added traffic from the semi trucks going to and from the mine site would be a safety concern for students in the community, as the school is situated very close to Highway 95. Lithium Nevada began working with the community and HCSD to see if they could fund a new school in a new location. The initial safety issue had been identified, and according to Jensen, Lithium Nevada was very receptive to the concerns of both the community and HCSD. Lithium Nevada had already received all of the permits necessary to begin the project, but felt that building a new school was the right thing to do, according to Vice President of Government & Community Relations for Lithium Nevada, Time Crowley. Essentially, the company wanted to be “good neighbors”.
Lithium Americas’ President of North American Operations, Alexi Zawadzki, said “We want our project to provide opportunities for generations of families to stay and thrive in northern Humboldt County, and access to high-quality educational institutions is critical to this effort. We’re pleased to be advancing plans to build a new modern school in a safer location to support local families, and we want to thank members of the local working group, Humboldt County School District, community members, educators, and Bureau of Land Management for their collaboration throughout this process.”
The 40 acre parcel of public land, located at the corner of Pine Grove Lane and Key Road, southwest of Orovada, was chosen by the community and the BLM worked very quickly to do all of the necessary studies and research in order to convey the land to Humboldt County. The initiation for public comment by the BLM, required by law to take place before the land can be conveyed, is the conclusion of the studies and will end Sept. 14, afterwich Lithium Nevada, HCSD, and the Orovada community can solidify design concepts and begin constructing the school, which will hopefully be done by 2024, according to Crowley. The BLM’s efficiency and willingness to perform all of the preliminary studies at their own cost has been a tremendous help throughout the process, according to Dr. Jensen.
“I’ve never seen work on transitioning a parcel of land occur as quickly as it has,” explained Jensen.
The preliminary designs for the new school have been greatly influenced by the Orovada community’s consciousness of their own needs and will include many new features for students, according to Crowley. He explained that there will be a kitchen, sports facilities, and many other new resources that can not only be used by students, but the entire community. The school has a little over 30 students currently enrolled and three staff members. Next year, according to Jensen, the student and staff rates will remain comparable and “flat” overall, with no spike in enrollment foreseen by HCSD. Being able to make a difference for the community and the students is important to the BLM, Lithium Nevada, and HCSD, as well as Orovada residents, so this project and the major collaboration it has taken amongst a range of different entities is a shining example of the difference that partnership and thoughtfulness can make for rural Nevada students.
“This is a project that we just couldn’t have done on our own… Lithium Nevada has been nothing but supportive of this concept since inception and really has bent over backwards to make this a reality, so thank you to them. I also want to thank the BLM— just how quickly this process has gone and how willing of partners they have been to recognize the benefit for the community… I also want to thank the Orovada Community. This is a community that is vested in Orovada and they want to see not only the community of Orovada, but their students get the best opportunities possible,” said Jensen.