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Charter school campus to grow for future

Amanda Butler, Sierra Sun

Hidden among the trees, off a small dirt road on the outskirts of Truckee, is an alternative to traditional education.

Prosser Creek Charter School is the only charter school in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, and it is growing – but don’t use the word ‘expanding.’

“We are not expanding,” said Jayna Gaskell, executive director of the school. “We are consolidating. Our numbers are not increasing; we are just bringing all of our campuses into a central location.”

Making that point is important. Although much of the controversy surrounding the charter school has died down since its birth in the fall of 1998, some administrators and educators within the school district still worry about the money the school diverts from the district.

“(Charter Schools) have their place,” said Michael Merriman, a local representative of the California Teacher’s Union and a teacher at the Tahoe Truckee High School. “But I do have a problem with the way they are funded and whether they are being held accountable, like we are.”

Prosser Creek Charter School is funded solely through the average daily attendance money that public schools receive per student. Unlike other public schools, charter schools do not receive supplemental funding for facility improvement or expansion. That means the $16 million needed to complete their plans for new buildings will have to be raised.

“I don’t think (so many) people in the district would have a problem with us, if there wasn’t declining enrollment,” said Gaskell. “If a student comes to our school their ADA money follows them … but it is also one less student that the district has to worry about.”

The expansion, or “consolidating,” plans for the 40-acre site in which the charter school currently sits, include the addition of four new buildings: a 15,100 square foot building for kindergarten through sixth grade, a 9,000 square foot middle school building, a 12,600 square foot high school building, and a 24,600 square foot performing arts building, which will begin construction first.

“We are getting some portables put into place this summer; they should arrive July 1,” said Gaskell. “Then we are going to start work on a performing arts center, which the community will be able to access as well,” said Gaskell.

The modular buildings will be used to help bring students currently attending Truckee Primary and Lake Forest Middle School back into classrooms at the central campus.

“Truckee Primary is now being taught at a church, Assembly of God on (Highway) 267; Lake Forest Middle School is held at the Lake Forest Creative Center,” said Gaskell.

Gaskell thinks bringing those schools back to the central campus could be a real advantage for the kids.

“We want traditional classrooms for our schools, a place where (the kids) can really learn in a conducive environment,” said Gaskell.

But Prosser Creek Charter School is anything but traditional. It is the brainchild and baby of Jayna Gaskell, Gail Alderson and Marion Shill, who all wanted to offer an alternative education program to parents and students.

Their solution was establishing Prosser Creek Charter School.

A charter school is a public school that can provide instruction in any grade from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The school cannot be affiliated with any religious organization and must be free to attend.

“If what you are doing isn’t working, then you should find something else that does,” said Gaskell.

The main difference between the charter school and a traditional public school is small class size, no larger than 15, and a curriculum that is tailored to each student’s need and interest.

“Class size is key and the school is very, very, very, individualized,” said Gaskell. “We offer home school and site-based programs with small group instruction classes.”

The high school program is geared toward independent students who have the motivation to get their work done. It is a unique way of learning that has scared many traditional educators.

But for students like Alexandra Frisius, a senior at Prosser Creek Charter, the freedom and flexibility that the school allows is better for her.

“I like that I can set my own schedule and decide how much work I’m going to put into something each day,” said Frisius.

Gaskell hopes time will help prove that charter schools are a positive addition to the traditional school system.


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