Sierra Mountain likely to be converted to K-5 learning facility
When the new middle school is built in approximately five years, the Sierra Mountain Middle School site will most likely be converted into a third kindergarten through fifth grade (K-5) elementary school.
At a special Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting Monday, board members discussed with district staff what the grade level configuration for the SMMS conversion project will be, and gave a recommendation for a K-5 configuration.
Other possibilities included: make the conversion site a 4-5 grade level configuration with Truckee Elementary a k-3; make the conversion a k-3 grade level configuration and have a 4-5 at Truckee Elementary; have Truckee Elementary be only a kindergarten and the middle school conversion a 1-5 grade level configuration; or making both Glenshire Elementary and Truckee Elementary a k-3 configuration and the middle school conversion a 4-5, with students coming from both Glenshire and Truckee Elementary.
According to John Britto, facilities director for TTUSD, there is a cost difference between making the middle school an elementary school with a 4-5 configuration and a K-5 configuration.
“Kindergarten is an added expense,” said Britto. “Kindergarten is a grade that is different. There are some site preparations that need to be done.” The added expense is estimated to be approximately $750,000, he said. Kindergarten requires bigger classrooms, bathrooms and sinks in each room, ideally a separate play area and a location at the site where parent access is easy for pick-up and drop-off.
The SMMS conversion project will be funded by Measure C, the $35 million bond that was passed by Truckee voters in March.
“The money that was identified (for the conversion) originally when we put the the projects together was approximately $2.7 million. But it was for work on the site and very generic, ” said Britto. “We’ll work within that dollar amount.”
The Measure C Oversight Committee will be discussing the recommendation to make the conversion a K-5 configuration and may recommend a shift in the dollars, said Britto.
Truckee Elementary became a K-5 school again four years ago when Glenshire Elementary opened. For 11 years prior to that, Truckee Elementary had a k-3 configuration and the SMMS site was a 4-5-6 configuration.
“We are just starting to settle in and feel like we have a comprehensive elementary program,” said Truckee Elementary Principal Cathy Valle. “We feel it has really enriched what we do at Truckee Elementary to have fourth and fifth graders here. It has made the communication better through this process of taking kids through the elementary school. When you look out on the play ground and see a fifth-grader turning a jump rope for a first-grader … it’s the kind of thing we feel is a real healthy environment for kids.”
One of the main pros for having a third K-5 elementary school at the site was the continuation of cross-grade communication, where upper and lower grades get to see a developmental process through the years, said Valle.
Cons identified by brainstorming with staff and parents included a split in resources, difficulty in departmentalization and the possibility of pitting schools against each other.
Converting SMMS into an elementary school will help alleviate the overcrowding at Truckee Elementary, which currently has a population of 805 students. Glenshire has 578 students. The conversion with a K-5 configuration would bring both Truckee and Glenshire Elementary’s population to about 460. The conversion would also have approximately the same population, drawing students from the Prosser, Downtown and Glenshire areas as well. TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma also discussed with board members the possibility of the elementary schools becoming thematic, and parents would have a choice of schools.
In the next one to two months, oversight committee members and education specifications committee members will work with architects on the kindergarten addition design.
“The way we’re designing it is that if at some point down the road it looked as though we changed our decision, we’d be able to pull out,” said Britto.
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