Proposed Tahoe Truckee charter school would give parents other options | SierraSun.com

Proposed Tahoe Truckee charter school would give parents other options

Jason Shueh
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Bolstered by community momentum, a new charter school hopes to offer parents and students different educational options than those the school district already provides.

Sierra Expeditionary Learning School, a possible charter school for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, proposes new facilities, added staff and educational reform for 63 Kindergarten to fifth grade student, potentially as early as September 2010.

Erica Stein, co-chair for the school, said it would be open to the community through a lottery system representing the district’s population (30 percent free-lunch qualified students, 70 percent non free-lunch students) and, as a public school, would require no tuition.

Stein said the school will offer the district a curriculum it never had before, using a hands-on-learning model designed by Outward Bound, a national nonprofit group. Outward Bound has designed reform models to more than 150 elementary and secondary schools throughout the country.

and#8220;This educational environment is really relevant and alive for students because they see learning in action and they become invested in what they’re learning,and#8221; Stein said.

Unlike traditional educational models where subjects are separated from each other, Stein said SELS will select a theme tying subjects such as math, English and social studies around it. The school also would take part in all state standardized testing, Stein said, for accountability.

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Steve Jennings, TTUSD superintendent, said Stein and other school officials have been working with the district to create an acceptable proposal; however, he said financial and state regulations must be considered before going forward.

and#8220;Charter schools can be formed in order to give parents more control and say over their child’s educational experience,and#8221; said Jennings, adding he is happy to see the great drive in parents for their kids.

Board of Trustees Chairwoman Bev Ducey said that while she is optimistic about the school she will review it based upon its educational model, its financial affect on other school programs and how well it allows all students to participate.

and#8220;I embrace all educational choices that would give parents and students more choices,and#8221; Ducey said. and#8220;The more choices there are for education the better for our kids.and#8221;

Financially, Stein said she sees the school as self-sustainable, as it will be entitled to a state $500,000 start-up grant for new schools, and afterward it will be funded by state dollars for student attendance.

Because the school will be an independent charter school, it will also be financially independent from the district, Stein said, allowing more freedom to school officials and parents. This also means the school has more hiring freedom, Stein said, and all teachers would not be governed by the Tahoe Truckee Education Association, the local teachers union, so teacher schedules could have more flexibility.

The teacher’s union has published an official statement on its website, stating it will continue to remain neutral on this issue until the proposal has been presented to the board.

and#8220;TTEA is not against parent choice or alternative options as long as they do not directly impact our collective bargaining contract or deny equal access to a quality education for every child in our district,” the statement reads.

Stein said while the school would potentially begin in Truckee, expansion to another site where it can accommodate up 132 students between Kindergarten and eighth grade is ideal.