Future school site undecided | SierraSun.com

Future school site undecided

Prosser Creek Charter School students and staff may get to spend the 2003-2004 school year at their current Truckee site.

School district staff’s suggestion to possibly allow the charter school to remain at its Union Mills Road site came after three weeks of discussion between officials from Prosser Creek and the district. The current terms of Prosser Creek’s charter stipulate the charter school must vacate the current site by the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year and move into either Rideout or Sierra Mountain Middle School.

District staff’s change of heart came after they realized the significant disadvantages of moving Prosser Creek’s program to Rideout or Sierra Mountain. School officials have also been in discussions with the Town of Truckee about extending the school’s site permits for one year.

“It didn’t seem possible (in the final renewal offer) because of tremendous cost of paving the road was huge and there was just no way to fund [the campus] without incurring additional debt,” said interim superintendent Bob Nehls, who attended the May 2 special meeting via conference call.

Prosser Creek officials have estimated paving the road and solving water issues at their current site would cost roughly $1.2 million – a sizable hindrance on the school’s nearly $3.5 million debt.

The one-year plan for Prosser Creek’s interim housing will be in effect until the 2004-2005 school year when the school’s Truckee students are moved into the vacated Sierra Mountain Middle School campus.

Although the Town of Truckee staff did support permit extensions for the unpaved road for one year, TTUSD and Prosser Creek would need to appeal to the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board for an extension on the school’s septic tank permit, which terminates Oct. 4.

Also, charter school officials would have to discuss the road liability concerns with their Union Mills Road neighbor, the owners of Truckee Meadows Equestrian.

Because the three board members at the special meeting could not reach consensus, they tabled the action item until the May 7 board meeting, held after the Sierra Sun’s press deadline. Trustee Dan Collin disagreed with staff’s recommendation.

“I’m concerned that we’re changing [the charter] document before we’ve even signed the final documents,” Collin said. “We can’t set this precedent.”

If passed on May 7, the item will allow staff to consider the charter school’s current site as the third facility option for interim housing. In their preceding closed-session discussions, officials from the school and district decided the two existing options – Rideout and Sierra Mountain – were plagued with obstacles.

“I’m absolutely set against using [Sierra Mountain Middle School] – it’s not appropriate,” Nehls said about housing both the charter and middle school students at the site for the 2003-2004 school year.

Among the concerns raised were traffic impact fees up to $300,000, facilities costs up to $1 million and possible loss of enrollment for both schools due to undesirable conditions.

“The biggest concern is infrastructure,” business manager Ralph Johnson said of using the Sierra Mountain Middle School campus for interim housing. “They’re already overtaxed on that site as it is.”

Johnson noted the disadvantages for using Rideout as interim housing, which included lack of transportation, possibly resulting in loss of ADA for Prosser Creek.

Trustee Collin suggested the district find “creative ways” to bus charter school students to Rideout.

“It’s 15 to 20 miles to Rideout,” Nehls responded. “They’re going to have a difficult time keeping in-district enrollment and lose (average daily attendance funding). If the district paid for [transportation], it would be a general fund expenditure. It’s hard to justify in my mind.”

Other drawbacks of moving the program to Rideout included negative impacts on the Cold Stream Alternative School program, public concerns over combining traditional and charter schools on a site, and moving costs.

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board decided on April 10 to renew Prosser Creek’s charter for five years after months of rocky relations between the district and charter school, fueled by ambiguities in the California Charter Schools Act and the charter school’s more than $3.4 million multi-year debt.

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