School district dilemma |

School district dilemma

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunNorth Tahoe High School Principal Bill Frey greets students as they board a school bus on Tuesday. Declining student enrollment at North Tahoe schools is an issue being studied by a new district committee.

Faced with declining enrollment at two Tahoe Basin schools, administrators with the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District said Monday they may consolidate several grammar schools.

Under a plan discussed at a meeting in Tahoe City, district officials said they would consider boosting grammar school enrollment by restricting each school’s number of grade levels, or by expanding each school’s geographical boundary.

The possible contraction of district schools was discussed at the second meeting of a citizen advisory committee to brainstorm solutions to the district’s loss of students.

“Declining enrollment is a cancer that wipes out choices for students and limits program availability,” said John Neary, who chairs the Restructuring and Reconfiguration Advisory Committee.

While the educators floated a few options to consolidate the district’s elementary schools, district officials said North Tahoe High School has experienced one of the most dramatic losses of enrollment. Yet, administrators offered no proposals regarding the North Shore school.

With regards to possibly consolidating schools, administrators discussed changing the boundary or grade levels of Kings Beach Elementary, North Tahoe Middle and Tahoe Lake Elementary schools. They did not say whether any consolidation would include the closure of one or more of the district’s 11 schools.

Monday’s meeting was the second of a series of planned restructuring hearings scheduled by Carol Brush, a consultant the district hired in September. Attending the meeting were committee members, district staff, parents of students, and two trustees.

District administrators John Britto and Todd Rivera spelled out the possible options for a restructured district, but did not recommend any alternative. Rivera said the district is seeing a slight increase this year in lake-side elementary enrollment, but that the decline in student numbers is most severe at North Tahoe Middle and North Tahoe High schools.

Rivera offered no explanation for the decline except that families are leaving the district.

Some parents who attended Monday’s meeting in a North Tahoe Middle School classroom did not believe that declining enrollment is the district’s only reason for creating the restructuring committee.

“Did you notice they didn’t identify the problems?” Joe Lanza said afterward. The father of eight children, Lanza has had a long history with the district.

“When my sons went, there was declining enrollment,” Lanza said. “This has happened before.”

The North Shore business owner said he thinks the district’s real problem is low test scores at the grade school in Kings Beach. At Monday’s meeting, Lanza asked Brush to identify the district’s main problems. In response, Brush identified three: Declining enrollment, the number of non-English speakers attending the Kings Beach school, and limited class offerings.

Five more committee meetings are scheduled through February for the advisory panel to brainstorm ideas with the community. Brush will then present the committee’s findings to the board of trustees, which will decide whether to act on the recommendations.

At the end of Monday evening’s meeting, Trustee Bill Kraus said the board has not adopted a time frame to review and approve the committee recommendations.

“It would depend on the decision we get,” Kraus said.

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