42-acre Lake Tahoe-area private school campus heading to vote

Margaret Moran
An aerial rendering of the proposed TEA campus in Martis Valley.
Courtesy Art Zendarski |

More online

Visit to view the Mitigated Negative Declaration for TEA’s proposed Martis Valley campus.

Visit to learn more about the project.

Visit to learn more about Tahoe Expedition Academy.

Visit to learn more about the Martis Fund.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — A decision regarding Tahoe Expedition Academy’s proposal to construct a multi-building private school campus on land in Martis Valley could come as early as next month.

The Placer County Planning Commission is scheduled to hear the project and vote whether to approve, deny or continue the item at its May 12 meeting at Tahoe, a county official confirmed.

As the proposal stands, the campus would be located on a 42-acre site located off of Schaffer Mill Road, known as Hopkins Ranch.

Previously, the site was available for workforce housing, based on a settlement agreement concerning the Hopkins Ranch and Martis Camp projects, according to the Martis Fund, which owns the land.

“We haven’t been able to find a way to get workforce on this site in the 10 years that it’s been available,” said Richard Taylor, general counsel for the Martis Fund, adding that major hurdles include the site’s isolation from nearby infrastructure and public transit. “ … The Martis Fund board’s feeling was instead of letting this asset sit for-maybe-ever without any workforce housing, let’s get some money and use that for workforce housing in the near future.”

The topic of affordable housing for those who work and/or live in the Tahoe/Truckee region has recently come to the public forefront — highlighted by the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation’s 2016 Regional Housing Study, with public forums scheduled for April 28, May 3 and May 11; and the “Measuring for Prosperity” report, published this past fall by the nonprofit Tahoe Prosperity Center.

Regarding the TEA project, it’s written into the property’s purchase and sale agreement that Martis Fund will use the roughly $4 million sale — which will close if the campus gains final approval — for workforce housing in eastern Placer County/Truckee region, Taylor said.

As for how the funds will be used specifically, Taylor said: “We really don’t want to put the cart before the horse because doing this will be a significant investment of time, figuring out what’s the best way to spend that money. We don’t know where this project is going to go, and we just want to get that done first.”

Should the campus proposal and property sale go through, the Martis Fund will consult with Placer County to determine the best use of the funds, he said.

Since its establishment in 2006, the Martis Fund has supported workforce housing by providing funding to a homebuyer assistance program for families who work in Truckee and the Martis region, the Family Resource Center of Truckee, and the Community House in Kings Beach.

Further, as part of its proposal, TEA will provide dormitories for approximately 40 students and staff housing during the school year.

‘A very special site’

The 42-acre property would also house a primary, middle and high school; a field house; an administration and gear shed building; among other structures to make up a 16-building campus.

As proposed, the campus would have the capacity for up to 350 students ranging from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

An environmental review of the proposal concluded the project would have no significant impact upon the environment with mitigation. Areas of study included aesthetics, forest resources, noise and traffic.

“The overall approach to the design and construction of this school is one that really takes to heart that it is a very special site,” Keith Franke, project manager, said at North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council’s April 14 meeting in Kings Beach. “This school and these students don’t want to be in urban environment. They want to be in a naturalistic environment where they can really use the site as their classroom, and this site fully functions in that regard.

“It’s really the right place for this school.”

Should the project proposal be approved by the Planning Commission, and not appealed, campus construction would be done in multiple phases over multiple years, starting this summer.

The first phase would consist of infrastructure improvements such as roadways, parking, and pick-up and drop-off areas, Franke said in a follow-up interview. This work would be to mitigate traffic and transportation impacts the school campus could have on area roadways.

As for what buildings will be built when, Franke said that will depend on need and funding. However, the goal is to get students into new classrooms “as soon as possible,” with the 2017-18 school year serving as a best case scenario.


TEA is proposing this campus to handle increased enrollment. Since opening in 2011, the academy has nearly doubled from its initial 72 students to 140.

The academy has been looking for property for roughly three years to house a campus to replace its facilities in Kings Beach, Tahoe Vista, Martis Valley and Truckee.

“That is terrible, as you can imagine,” Mark Kushner, TEA’s CEO and head of school, said at the NTRAC meeting. “ … We need one home. We need one place. This is the site that works.”

Originally, in 2013, TEA was looking at building a campus in Kings Beach, where the Crown Motel, Falcon Lodge and roadside portion of the Goldcrest Resort sit off Highway 28.

That proposal fell through due to issues regarding the Falcon Lodge that delayed TEA from purchasing the intended 1.4-acre campus site, according to previous reports.

As a result, in May 2015, after months of negotiations, TEA announced it struck a deal with the Martis Fund for property in Martis Valley to construct a campus.

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