Decision soon for Catholic school | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Decision soon for Catholic school

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

What started four years ago will end this June when a group of educators will decide whether to give accreditation to St. Theresa Catholic School.

The accreditation is not mandatory but will likely increase grant money and raise the reputation of the school which opened in 1994, according to Danette Winslow,assistant principal and teacher.

“They do a self-evaluation and put everything together in a book,” said Cynthia Meek, a principal of a Catholic school in Bakersfield who will lead the accreditation team during the three-day visit. “I’ll come up with five other people and verify everything in their book. If they do skiing at Heavenly on Thursday, we’ll check if they go skiing on Thursday.”

Inside the actually a binder are descriptions of academic standards, financial statements and subject layouts from kindergarten to eighth grade. St. Theresa’s academic standards are derived from a fusion of standards from the state and Diocese of Sacramento.

Meek and her team, including a teacher from Zephyr Cove Elementary, will also focus on the religion and Spanish program, which St. Theresa did in-depth studies on.

“It tells anybody coming into the Tahoe basin it has been accredited,” Meek said. “To have that accreditation is important when you’re attracting people out of the area and they don’t know your reputation.”

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St. Theresa currently serves 132 students after a peak of almost 200 pupils. When it opened in 1994, it served kindergarten through sixth grade. The school grew after two years when it allowed the sixth grade to move up to eighth grade.

Like Lake Tahoe Unified School District, South Shore’s only Catholic school has felt the burden of people driven out of Tahoe from a lack of jobs coupled with the high cost of living. Instead of receiving state money on average daily attendance — or the amount of students occupying a desk — St. Theresa receives the bulk of its funding from tuition: $2,475 for the first child for 11 months. The amount is discounted if siblings are enrolled and if payment is received before July 1.

In addition, 30 hours of volunteering is required. Families who do not volunteer 30 hours are charged $900 extra.

Last year, along with one teacher retiring, two teachers had to be released and supplies cut. The third- and fourth-grade classes were combined as well as fifth and sixth.

Winslow firmly stated St. Theresa is not gleeful that LTUSD, faced with decisions on program and staff cutting in the midst of declining enrollment and a state budget crisis, could lose more students to private, charter or home schools.

“We don’t want them to think we’re doing a happy dance because we’re not,” Winslow said. “We’re trying to boost enrollment but not at their expense.”

Winslow added that since St. Theresa students are funneled into the public school system after eighth grade. She does not want to see the district foundering.

The decision on whether to give accreditation for three, four or the preferred six years will arrive by summer.

— E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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