K-12 private school campus eyed for Martis Valley; Tahoe lakeside out (w/ updates) | SierraSun.com

K-12 private school campus eyed for Martis Valley; Tahoe lakeside out (w/ updates)

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com
From left, Tahoe Expedition Academy board chair Ken Martin and Sean O'Toole, CEO of PropertyRadar who's also a TEA parent, chat Tuesday morning on a site tour on Schaffer Mill Road, where TEA is proposing to build a campus.
Courtesy Tahoe Expedition Academy |

More online

Visit futuretea.org to learn more about Tahoe Expedition Academy and the proposed new campus.

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About Tahoe Expedition Academy

Founded in 2011, TEA is an independent, Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade expeditionary learning school. Using academics and outdoor adventures, it aims to empower students to reach their full potential by cultivating intellectual growth, character and confidence. Visit tahoeexpeditionacademy.org to learn more.

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About Martis Fund

The Martis Fund was created in 2006 as a partnership among Mountain Area Preservation, Sierra Watch and the DMB/Highlands Group (the developers of Martis Camp) to fund open space conservation, habitat and forestland restoration and workforce housing through real estate sales at Martis Camp. Visit martisfund.org to learn more.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Tahoe Expedition Academy’s proposal to build a private school campus on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore has shifted to just outside the town of Truckee limits.

In a deal announced Monday afternoon, the Kings Beach-based expeditionary learning school will pay the Martis Fund about $4 million for a 42-acre property on Schaffer Mill Road in the Martis Valley known as Hopkins Ranch.

“This amazing property is a dream come true for our school and our community,” said Taylor Simmers, chief academic officer for the academy. “As an adventure-based K-12 school that promotes an intimate appreciation of, and love for, the natural world, being adjacent to the Martis Valley is a perfect fit for us.”

The site was originally slated for workforce housing, with no specific proposal in place, said Terry Watt, adviser to the Martis Fund.

Martis Fund will use the roughly $4 million to support and build workforce housing closer to existing neighborhoods, according to a news release announcing the deal.

“We really believe this deal will result in a better set of benefits for the community in terms of workforce housing, the environment and the best fit for the site,” Watt said.

Meanwhile, TEA plans to build a 60,000-square-foot campus that can accommodate up to 270 students, Kindergarten through 12th grade.

Construction is tentatively planned to begin next May and be completed by 2017. There is no construction cost estimate at this time, said Ken Martin, TEA board chair.

Before ground-breaking can occur, however, community input, campus design and Placer County approval are needed, processes that can occur simultaneously, said Sean O’Toole, CEO of PropertyRadar, a company hired by TEA to help locate potential campus locations in the North Tahoe/Truckee region.

A school on the property is a permitted use — subject to specific conditions of approval, said Michael Johnson, planning director for Placer County. As a result, the Placer County Planning Commission would need to approve a conditional use permit.

It’s a process staff estimates could take four to six months, which includes environmental review and consideration from the planning commission, Johnson said.

If approved, the project would then have to go through the county’s building permit process, he said.

TEA’s year outlook to go through the county process is “a very reasonable timeline,” Johnson said.

The academy has been looking for property for roughly two and a half years, as it’s outgrown its leased facilities at 8651 Speckled Ave. in Kings Beach and 7000 Latone Ave. in Tahoe Vista.

“We desperately need housing for our students,” said O’Toole, who is also a TEA parent. “We’re growing and housing is constrained.”

Since opening in 2011, the school has gone from 74 students to roughly 120, Martin said.

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 of Highway 28.

That proposal faltered, due to issues regarding the Falcon Lodge that delayed TEA from purchasing the intended 1.4-acre campus site, Simmers said.

“We couldn’t receive the title that was necessary for our plans,” he said.

The Falcon property was intended for parking, while the Crown Motel would have been remodeled to create the school, according to previous reports.

“We’re moving forward and continuing to run our business,” said Dave Ferrari, co-owner of the Crown, adding that deal fell through months ago. “We wish the school luck in (its) new endeavor.”

Negotiations with Martis Fund regarding the Schaffer Mill Road property started at the beginning of this year, Simmers said.

“We hope to be an asset in the Truckee/Tahoe area, bolstering educational opportunities,” he said. “We are a proud member of the expeditionary learning network … and we’re excited to continue this approach to education.”

As part of the deal, TEA will award $200,000 annually in scholarships in perpetuity for Truckee-area working families.

“We are excited about the possibility of bringing world-class environmental education to the Martis Valley, together with scholarships devoted to students from the local community, and at the same time, develop a strong funding base to get housing on the ground for local families,” said David Welch, board president of the Martis Fund.