School district considers combining middle schools | SierraSun.com

School district considers combining middle schools

Kyle Magin
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE/TAHOE CITY ” Recommendations were made this week to the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Board of Trustees to close North Tahoe Middle School and send those students to Alder Creek Middle School in Truckee.

The district looks to restructure its education system while facing a $4 million budget shortfall for the 2009-10 school year.

The recommendation, made by a subcommittee, calls for the schools to combine, which Superintendent Steve Jennings would be in the best interest of student education. Many parents and teachers representatives disagreed.

“Certainly these ideas are very sound,” Jennings said. “Right now the middle school’s enrollment in shrinking and with that, their staff allotments would be going down. Because of academics, combining both schools outweighs the concern over the loss of North Tahoe.”

Tahoe Truckee Education Association President Mike Merriman said he couldn’t support the move because it would cost teaching jobs.

“The thing I’d dislike is we’re losing teachers because with closing North Tahoe they’d go to one staff,” Merriman said. He also said he opposed the idea because class size would most likely increase, giving teachers a tougher time handling discipline and grading issues.

Jon Halvorsen, TTEA’s vice president, said the union was taken aback by the recommendation, which he characterized as “abrupt.”

“We’re in shock just like everyone else right now,” Halvorsen said. “We’re just trying to digest it.”

Two other recommendations were made this week.

One was for the board to consider some combination of the North Shore’s two elementary schools, with Kings Beach Elementary and Tahoe Lake Elementary each taking on a few grades apiece (i.e. Tahoe Lake teaching Pre-K through first grade while Kings Beach taught second, third, fourth and fifth).

The other was for North Tahoe High School to synch their current six-unit class schedule with Truckee’s four-by-four block schedule. Jennings said the synchronized schedules would allow for a greater sharing of teachers and resources between the schools.

“One of the really positive components of this move would be that it provides for teachers to share more easily in professional learning communities,” Jennings said.

The learning communities allow teachers time during the day to meet with teachers who are instructing the same subjects to sit down and analyze their teaching methods and students. They identify students who are struggling or excelling and allow for academic interventions and enrichments.

Merriman said he agreed the schedule-alignment would be a good idea and said his only worry would be teachers driving between the two schools to teach a class.

Jennings also addressed driving time, though on the student transportation end. Since the district stretches southward to the Sugar Pine area on the West Shore, students under the recommendation would have a roughly 55-minute drive to Alder Creek.

That isn’t unheard of, Jennings said, as some students in the Tahoe Donner subdivision already have a comparable 55-minute commute by bus.

None of the recommendations have been acted on by the board as the board is still looking into the potential for a variety of cost-savings measures.

A forum for parents to give their thoughts on potential cuts and school closures is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Alder Creek Middle School. The board’s next budget workshop is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday at Truckee High School.