School admissions continue to decline |

School admissions continue to decline

Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun file photoStudents line up for the first day of kindergarten last month at Kings Beach Elementary School. Although enrollment has been declining in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, the North Shore elementary school may experience increased attendance in the next five years.

Student enrollment is down for the eighth time in nine years for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.

The region’s school district’s student body has declined at a steady rate since 1999 with the exception of 2003-04 school year, when attendance rose by about 40 students.

Although district administrators won’t have official attendance numbers to release until October, projections from the district’s financial division reflect the downward trend. According to a draft budget report released in June, enrollment was expected to drop by about 89 students this year to a total of 3,758 students at the district’s 11 schools.

Enrollment has dropped 15 percent since 1999, with the district losing nearly 700 students.

Teacher’s union representative Scott Beaudry would not comment if any Tahoe Truckee teachers were laid off this year because of the drop, but at least one local middle school teacher said his job was affected by the trend.

“They told me that enrollment was down and I wasn’t going to be rehired,” said former North Tahoe Middle School teacher Mike Kahlich. “It was a bit of a shock.”

According to a report by the Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee, the decline may be due to economic conditions of the area. The report cited the high cost of living as one reason that families with children are moving from the area.

Anecdotal data suggests that since the real estate boom at the beginning of the millennium, some families have left the area for more affordable housing elsewhere, or simply to make a profit by selling their Tahoe property.

“There was a double-digit appreciation in home prices between 1999 and 2005,” said President Christy Curtis of the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors. “With that appreciation some cashed out and moved to less expensive areas.”

Housing Services Director Tom Ballou of the Workforce Housing Association of Truckee Tahoe said the 2007 median income for a family of four living in Nevada County was $65,100 and in Placer County was $67,200.

Although the median price for a house dropped $100,000 in the Truckee area in the last year, the median cost remains at $600,000, according to Ballou.

Despite the continuing slide in student enrollment, some observers expect the trend to turn around in the next few years, at least in the faster-growing Truckee portion of the district.

According to the report by the Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee, a regional partnership of advocates and social service providers, the number of students enrolled at Truckee’s middle and high school is expected to rise by 10 percent within the next five years.

Over the same period, though, student enrollment may continue to decline in the North Shore area with the exception of King’s Beach Elementary, where enrollment is predicted to increase by 20 percent. The report attributes the projected rise to a push for affordable housing, which would attract more working-class families with children.

Rich Valentine, a 30-year Truckee resident, has long observed the school district while living in the area.

“There are so many factors; for one, our population is increasing while our student population is declining,” Valentine said. “And affordable housing is not up to where it needs to be.”

The Community Collaborative expects an increase in proposed affordable housing to eventually lead to an increase in the number of students enrolled in the Tahoe Truckee district.

Tahoe Truckee Unified does not stand to lose state funding because of a lower daily attendance because, as a “basic aid” district, it does not receive funds based on attendance. Instead of the estimated $22 million it would receive based on its enrollment, the district’s main source of funds come from Measure A, a parcel tax approved by voters, which last year collected $27.4 million.

Measure A funds provided about 65 percent of the district’s $43.9 million revenue for the last school year. The tax is levied on property owners within the district.

Declining enrollment could affect revenue from the state lottery, which now provides the district $143 for each student, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Earl Wammack. Federal funding for special education programs could also decline if the number of students who qualify drops.

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