Due in part to new hiring practices at the casinos, enrollment in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District rose after the holidays for the first time since many administrators can remember.
When The Service Companies - an outsourcing partner that serves the hospitality industry - started managing housekeeping for Harrah's Lake Tahoe and Harveys Resort and Casino in February, the group implemented several new recruitment strategies.
The company relocated about 70 people and their families from a state unemployment agency in Southern California, from various refugee organizations around the Bay Area and from properties in Puerto Rico to live and work in the South Shore, according to The Service Companies Senior Vice President of Human Resources Michael Rosenow.
"Part of our recruitment efforts include relocating people with kids. If people had children, we'd use the school district as a great reason to move. If you're coming from Southern California where it's very crowded, this is a great opportunity," he said.
The Service Companies also hires employees from the South Shore and the Carson Valley, but it's become more difficult to rely on regional labor to fill the back-of-the-house jobs as people leave the basin, Rosenow said.
"We have to go out of the area to find the critical mass of employees. In filling these jobs you have to go out of area. We've hired local people, too, but there's not enough in the area," he said.
Nineteen students have enrolled in LTUSD since November, the most of whom come from Puerto Rico. The other students were born in Mexico, Nicaragua, Syria, Portugal, Mongolia and the Philippines.
Neither Whittell High School nor Zephyr Cove Elementary in the Douglas County School District have seen a similar trend.
The influx of new employees and their children has strained LTUSD schools that need to maintain certain student-to-teacher ratios and class sizes. Bijou Community School Principal Karen Gillis-Tinlin said 10 students have enrolled at the school since December, prompting educators to shuffle resources and priorities.
"I don't ever remember getting this many students at this time of year. They usually don't come to Tahoe in the winter. The families that come here for the school district tend to move here in the summer. These families are coming here for work in the casinos," Gillis-Tinlin said.
Preparing for the new students is complicated by the fact that many of them speak primarily Spanish. Some of the children entered the school's Two-Way Language Immersion Program that promotes bilingualism, but others needed more intensive support.
For the first time in many years, Bijou will implement a "new-comers program" that will pair a Spanish-speaking student with an instructional assistant who will help the child master the basics, Gillis-Tinlin said. She said the school has the resources needed for the program, but she'll have to look at where to best use them.
"You get a student and if you have room for them, you take them. Our numbers have gone up and you just have to deal with it," Gillis-Tinlin said.
If the new students stay in the district for the rest of the year, it would mean more funding for the school district in 2013-14, Chief Financial Officer Debra Yates said.
"I'm just hoping once the dust settles there will be more entrances than exits. The numbers for this year will drive my funding for next year," Yates said.