School district reconfigures schools, schedules |

School district reconfigures schools, schedules

Sierra Sun/Keith SheffieldA student at North Tahoe Middle School does algebra work on Wednesday. Next year, the middle school will accommodate grades 4-8.

TAHOE CITY ” “Relief” was the most commonly used expression by the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Board of Trustees after they voted on a plan to reconfigure the district’s schools Wednesday night.

More than 250 people sat in on the meeting at North Tahoe Middle School to hear the board’s decision.

The proposal, dubbed “Configuration B” by the district’s administration, establishes Kings Beach Elementary as a K-3 school serving only two-way immersion students. Tahoe Lake Elementary becomes a K-3 school as well, serving only English Mainstream learners.

North Tahoe Middle School will accommodate grades 4-8 and give seventh and eighth graders access to North Tahoe High School’s elective programs, including foreign languages, advanced math, culinary arts and others. North Tahoe High School would also implement a four-by-four block schedule to match up with Truckee High, so the two schools can share resources.

“It’s a big relief to be able to start the necessary planning work for next year,” said Kristy Olk, board chair. “Everyone was getting very frustrated about not having a plan in place.”

The motion, proposed by trustee Bill Kraus, passed 3-2, with Kraus, Bev Ducey and Olk in favor while recently-elected Kirsten Livak and Lisa Mohun dissented.

“I think the reason we needed to have this vote from an education perspective was that we needed to plan now for next year, for example so North Tahoe High School could start building their master schedule,” Ducey said.

Mohun and Livak’s reason for dissenting was the short timetable the board and residents were given to mull the idea ” it was proposed slightly more than 24 hours before the vote ” and, as Mohun said, a reluctance to add stress to a community already suffering through stressful times.

“What I was trying to communicate was that with the way the economy is, the unprecedented times we’re in, I think it’s too much for some of our community to start laying these plans out so quickly,” Mohun said.

She expressed relief that a plan was in place, despite her opposition to it, but also expressed dismay at the relatively quick turnaround.

“We only had 24 hours. I don’t think that was enough time to analyze all of this,” Mohun said.

Livak said her reservations came from the board not addressing socioeconomic issues which affect student learning, and a lack of a vehicle to evaluate the decision.

“I wanted to see some kind of evaluation caveat with this recommendation, something that allows for continuous quality improvement over time, to see how this change is working,” Livak said. “I like to look at how this will affect the whole child, not just the academic component of the child. When it’s December 2009 and we ask, ‘how is this working?’ how will we know? We won’t, and that’s why I was uncomfortable to go with the recommendation.”

Numerous community members voiced their opposition to the board taking any action Wednesday night during the five-plus hour meeting’s public comment section, while a near-equal number encouraged the board to make a decision so they could move on.

Robert Mowris, a Tahoe City resident, said he didn’t favor either option the board had to vote on ” the other would have established Kings Beach Elementary as a 2-4 school and reduce Tahoe Lake to K-1 ” and said he had no confidence in Superintendent Steve Jennings or the board.

“This is a democracy, so let’s do this the democratic way,” Mowris said as he addressed the crowd with his back turned to the board. “Who wants option C?”

The crowd erupted in cheers as Mowris raised a fist and again shouted “Option C” as he returned to his seat.

Some of the teachers who spoke, including Kings Beach’s Yvonne Logan, a kindergarten teacher in the two-way immersion program who urged the board to vote so the school staffs could begin to plan for the upcoming school year.

“Hopefully you’ll make a decision tonight,” Logan said.

Kraus said there was a sense of urgency to vote on a measure Wednesday night.

“We need to notice our certified staff by May 15 (for layoffs), and needed to make our decisions for the school’s to finalize their schedules,” Kraus said.

Olk said she favored making the move because without a solid plan in place, many other budget decisions such as staff reductions would remain on hold.

“Without accepting a reconfiguration model, we’re at a standstill,” Olk said.

The plan is estimated to save the district up to about $75,000 per year.

The district had to make these moves, Jennings said, because of the tightening budget which shows a shortfall of about $4 million entering next year to implement the district’s educational model.

Now that the configuration is in place, Jennings said the district can go about the business of implementing it and finding other out-of-classroom savings which they were not able to identify while the school configuration question was unsettled.

– North Tahoe High School switches to a four-by-four block schedule from its current six class format. The move will create a schedule similar to what is used at Truckee High School.

– North Tahoe Middle School will expand into a 4-8 school, with fourth, fifth and sixth graders attending a separate, elementary school program within the same building.

– Kings Beach Elementary will transition into a K-3, two-way immersion only program.

– Tahoe Lake Elementary will become a K-3, English Mainstream only program.

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