Why I chose Donner Trail for my children | SierraSun.com

Why I chose Donner Trail for my children

I appreciate Peggy Lindsay’s flattering statements about Donner Trail School (In an April 7 letter “Proposed school closure is ill-conceived” in the Sierra Sun) and I agree “that small class size, hands-on learning, and teaching to the child’s ability level has been extremely beneficial to the students,” as well as “the incredible commitment of the Donner Trail teachers.” This philosophy and commitment have helped the children at Donner Trail to achieve the highest API scores in the district.

However, there are several misstatements that I would like to correct or clarify. Peggy states that Donner Trail has been serving the community for over a decade. In reality Donner Trail is one of the oldest schools in the district, opened in the 1950s. Donner Trail was built as a neighborhood school for Donner Summit. Because of intermittent declines in enrollment, Donner Trail has often been threatened with closure. About 10 years ago the challenge was issued: Change the school so Truckee parents are willing to bus their children to Kingvale or the school will be closed. This is when Donner Trail, with much controversy, implemented the changes to become a “magnet school.”

Donner Trail does not have a “rather select process of admitting children,” as stated by Peggy. Admittance to Donner Trail is simple: If a child lives on the summit, he or she will go to school there. The rest of the slots go to a lottery. Kindergarten is usually the best year to try admittance because there are 10 slots, five girls and five boys. This year there were five summit children and three siblings. This allowed for only two lottery slots. Not such a good year for lottery admittance. Other children are admitted when slots in other grades open. This often means pulling your child from another school midyear. Few parents are willing to do this, but those that do receive the benefits of Donner Trail.

The school is a two-room schoolhouse with a maximum enrollment of 60 children and a waiting list. When Donner Trail was again threatened with closure after it became a magnet school, studies were done that proved the school district spends no more per pupil than any other school in the district. In some areas where funding is limited because of the smaller school size or per pupil allocation, the PTO has to make up the difference. The PTO pays $5,200 of an aide’s benefits, $1,000 toward janitor supplies, $1,000 toward special friends, in addition to supplemental funding for other programs.

Personally, the No. 1 reason that I chose Donner Trail was because the bus ride to the Summit (25 minutes) was shorter than it was from Prosser Lakeview to Glenshire (45 minutes). With budget cuts and the loss of a bus this is no longer the case. Now my children are on the bus for up to an hour and 10 minutes, totaling two hours and 20 minutes per day. I have seriously contemplated pulling my children because of the changes in the busing. One family already did and another family is also contemplating pulling their child. I’m still searching for busing solutions. I had hoped we could consolidate the bus stops on the Summit (like is done in Truckee) and everyone would have a shorter ride and save the district time and money. However, the district is currently committed to the idea of a neighborhood school and won’t consolidate the Summit bus stops.

All parents, students and teachers are faced with choices because of the fiscal crises. If we can think outside the box and not be tied down by bureaucracy, jealousy or the status quo, inspired solutions may be feasible.

For example, see the Sierra Sun article dated March 31 “High schoolers plea for four-day school week.” The speech and debate class looked at the feasibility and the economic savings of four longer days vs. the regular five-day schedule. They claim a $3 million budget savings. This may or may not be the solution to the problem, but what other solutions might be out there?

Laura Mohun is a Truckee resident.

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