End of school: Tahoe Learning Community forms in wake of school closure | SierraSun.com

End of school: Tahoe Learning Community forms in wake of school closure

Golden Valley Tahoe School opened as a charter school in 2018, and had students enrolled at the transitional kindergarten level up to sixth grade. It closed its doors last month, facing a deficit of $370,000.
Justin Scacco

On March 9, parents of Golden Valley Tahoe School spent roughly two hours making impassioned pleas to the Board of Trustees in hopes of keeping their school open.

Two days later, and facing a deficit of $370,000, the school closed its doors following a unanimous decision by the board.

“This is a very difficult decision for everyone involved,” said board member Jennifer Huetter. “For me, closing any school is seen as a failure. There’s no way around it … this is a huge and gut-wrenching decision.”

Following the sudden closure, local families have rallied to retain teachers and keep students in the Waldorf-style setting, forming the Tahoe Learning Community.

Established by the Friends of Tahoe Truckee Waldorf, a local nonprofit dedicated to growth and access to Waldorf Education and programming in the Tahoe-Truckee area, Tahoe Learning Community is the newest offering in the evolution of the nonprofit’s seven-year legacy of a Tahoe Waldorf community.

“I consider our family unbelievably lucky to be able to have our child continue in these beautiful programs — she thrives in the play-based curriculum and spends her days playing with peers amongst the pine trees and hiking to the river, developing her imagination and confidence,“ said Lauren Bello, mother of a Tahoe Learning Community kindergartner.


Golden Valley Tahoe School opened as a charter school in 2018, and had students enrolled at the transitional kindergarten level up to sixth grade. It was operated by Golden Valley Charter Schools, which also oversees Orchard School and River School, both in Orangevale.

The school struggled financially in the past and had been forced to borrow $50,000 from the River School. Its enrollment doubled from the 2019-20 to 2020-21 school years, from 53 to 106 students. School officials had budgeted for 140 students this school year, but because of uncertainties surrounding permitting and the school site, officials said that number fell to 77.

Officials stated keeping the school open would financially burden its other two schools. Golden Valley Tahoe School is expected to have a deficit of $373,156 at end of year.

Additionally, the site at 12640 Union Mills Road doesn’t have enough large rooms to host class sizes of 20 or more students. Only the school’s kindergarten classes had enrollment that high. The school also was using rooms from Sierra College, which are needed back at the end of May. These factors, according to the board, have led to attendance rates dropping to around 88%, a drop in support from donations, and low enrollment going into next fall. The school’s deficit, according to projections, was expected to grow $100,000 every month.

“I’ve been in support of this school and looking at the donations to this date, my family has donated over 15% of the entire donations to the school,” said board member Stephen Quadro. “I really wanted this to succeed. I put a ton of time, effort, and my own personal money into this as well.”

Tahoe Learning Community currently serves homeschooling families and students from transitional kindergarten level through sixth grade who are seeking a Waldorf-based alternative to traditional education in the greater Tahoe area, and is based in Truckee. TLC convenes at the 40-acre campus at Haskatasun on Union Mills Road, and also at Sierra College’s Truckee Campus.

Tahoe Learning Community is accepting new families, with children entering transitional kindergarten level through seventh grade for 2022-23. More information can be found by scheduling an informational meeting with the director of education, Bonnie River, at Bonnie@fottw.org. Walkthroughs are scheduled at 10 a.m. Tuesdays and 4 p.m. Fridays (excluding today and May 6). Email Kate Panawek, director of operations, at kate@fottw.org to inquire about more information.

Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at jscacco@sierrasun.com

The name of Tahoe Learning Community has been corrected

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