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Charter school opens with expanded facilities

TANYA CANINO, Sun News Service

When school bells ring Sept. 7 at Prosser Creek Charter School, the doors will literally swing open this year.

The charter school – begun last year as a home-based education program – will have five school campuses under its wing and house 165 students in site-based classes, with another 65 to 70 high school students taking some site-based classes with their independent study.

“We’re responding to what the local families have asked of us,” said Jayna Gaskell, the head of school for Prosser Creek Charter School.

The charter school will be holding classes at a middle school at the Lake Forest Creative Center, an elementary school at the Kings Retreat on Tahoe’s West Shore, a kindergarten in Tahoe Donner, an elementary school in Truckee’s Martis Valley and high school at its main campus in Prosser Creek.

The charter school begins Sept. 7 because charter school students are only required to attend 175 days per year, instead of the 180 days per year required by the state for traditional schools, Gaskell said.

“We can get more done in a shorter amount of time with smaller classes,” she said.

The charter school was approved by the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District Board of Trustees in spring 1998 as an alternative for families within the school district, with the assessment that there was a need for more home schooling coordination.

However, its charter said that it would be able to respond to parent needs with home schooling, independent study and site-based classes.

Prosser Creek Charter School is funded through public school funds and students may attend the school’s core classes for free.

Parents must either pay tuition for extra-curricular and enrichment classes, such as art, Spanish and music, or teach these classes to their children themselves.

After one year, the local enrollment in Prosser Creek has doubled in size. Total enrollment is expected to be around 300 students for 1999-2000, Gaskell said.

“I hope it means we are doing something right for our kids,” she said.

There are about 250 students who live within the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District that have applied to attend the charter school this year, compared to 125 students who started at the beginning of school last year. Of those 125, 65 students had been previously enrolled in TTUSD schools.

There are about 45 to 50 district students who are not returning to the charter school this year, Gaskell said. Enrollment is still tentative because several parents have not yet made decisions on where to send their children.

“Some are waiting to make the decision until after they see who their child gets for a teacher (in the regular public schools),” Gaskell said.

Of the total enrollment, the number of home-schooled students has dropped to about 25 to 30 within the Tahoe Truckee school district and 30 in neighboring counties.

The home school portion of Prosser Creek Charter School decreased when new legislation required that students must enroll in a charter school based in a neighboring county. This eliminated groups of students from Sebastopol and Ukiah that had enrolled in Prosser Creek Charter School last year, Gaskell said.

“Those districts aren’t passing charters; they are denying charters,” Gaskell said of Ukiah and Sebastopol school districts.

An orientation for parents who are home schooling their children through the Prosser Creek Charter School will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Prosser Creek Charter School main campus.

The charter is offering the following site-based schools:

Middle school

Prosser Creek is leasing space at the Lake Forest Creative Center for five classes of potentially 15 students each. The middle school cooperative was expected to be located in Truckee and was full with 75 students. However, a Truckee site could not be found, so it was moved to Tahoe City.

“So we obviously lost some Truckee-based parents,” Gaskell said. “We might not open with that many because of the switch.”

She is expecting about 60 to 65 students in the middle school.

The charter school will teach sixth, seventh and eighth grade classes from seven classrooms in one wing of the creative center, leaving the dance studio, preschool and a business, Gaskell said.

She said the middle school grew from the popularity of the sixth-grade site-based class taught by Dominique Del Chiaro last year and parents who like the curriculum which teaches by integrating an educational theme that will be taught in all the subjects.

A parent orientation for the middle school will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1, at the Lake Forest Creative Center.

Prosser Creek Cooperative

of the Learning Tree

This elementary cooperative will have a kindergarten class taught by Mary Ellen Peterson, who formerly ran a private kindergarten for many years; a combined kindergarten-first grade; a combined second-third grade and a combined fourth-fifth grade.

Classes will be held at Kings Retreat on the West Shore, however, the school may not be able to open in that building in the beginning, she said.

“There were some zoning challenges,” Gaskell said.

If the zoning is not approved by Sept. 7, the charter school has leased some offices behind the Black Bear Tavern to use until the Kings Retreat building is ready.

In addition, the Learning Tree Enrichment Program will be offering private, tuition-based enrichment classes at Kings Retreat in the afternoon, to supplement the free core classes in the morning.

A parent orientation for the Learning Tree cooperative will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1, at a site to be announced.

Truckee Montessori

kindergarten

Two kindergartens of 15 students each, based upon the Montessori educational philosophy, will be held in Tahoe Donner, at the site where a private Montessori kindergarten and preschool formerly operated until it closed.

Truckee elementary

cooperative

Sixty students in first through fifth grades will attend school in four classes of 15 students each at a Truckee elementary cooperative, Gaskell said. The charter school is leasing the Assembly of God church in Martis Valley for the classes. A parent orientation for the elementary school in Truckee will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Assembly of God church.

High school

The high school program serves about 65 to 70 students and offers site-based classes at the main campus in Prosser Creek, but requires an element of independent study as well.A parent orientation will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, Sept. 2, at the Prosser Creek Charter School main campus.


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