Letter to the editor: Don’t hurt the Tahoe City community
April 2, 2009
There is a lot of anger and fear in Tahoe City right now. Faced with a budget crisis, the administration and trustees of the school district are looking for ways to meet the needs of a diverse student population on sharply reduced funds. Although all the choices that can cut the budget and improve test scores enough to meet the need are difficult, only one threatens the very heart and soul of our town.
The school board is considering shuffling the youngest students between Tahoe City and Kings Beach and moving all North Tahoe pre- and early teenage students to Truckee. This would be a real blow to the small town sense of community we feel and a slap in the face to everyone who has worked so hard to build and maintain high quality education in North Tahoe. Of course this move would impact the families with school aged children. Yet it also devalues the financial contribution made by the entire North Shore in our schools, from business and individual support for fundraising drives, to Measure A, to the special taxes for construction of the high school/middle school campus and upgrades to Tahoe Lake and Kings Beach. Our entire community has built these schools and deserves to have them filled with our children.
My parents are from a farming background in Nebraska. When the family farm started to disappear in the 1970s, the small communities throughout the plains states really struggled. But they didn’t die until the drive for cost efficiencies closed their local schools and sent their children on long bus rides to consolidated campuses far away from their homes. When the schools closed, so did the cafes, hardware stores, and banks. The towns that survived found ways to keep their schools and their sense of shared purpose.
When families start to flee an area, it’s hard to stop and it’s a self-reinforcing cycle. We have already experienced some of this in the last ten years as the price of real estate and overall cost of living has squeezed the middle class in North Tahoe. But we are holding on and seeing an equilibrium starting to be established. We should be focusing all our energy on keeping our neighborhood schools as the best support we have for our larger community.
Based on the depth of our budget hole and the challenges of our educational goals, I know that some change is inevitable. I believe a final outcome will probably involve some modifications to our school site compositions and our preferred class sizes. I think we will probably end up with a different configuration of grade levels under a single administrative structure. Its likely that our teachers and administrators will make less money for awhile and families will be asked to pay for things like transportation. But to be successful, and many models other than the one we currently have are thriving in other places, any changes must be broadly supported and community based. Moving our children to other communities will tear the fabric of our small town identity and will work against the success of whatever solution we find.