Al Tahoe will close if ‘L’ fails today | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Al Tahoe will close if ‘L’ fails today

William Ferchland

Al Tahoe and Meyers elementary schools will close next year if a parcel tax doesn’t pass by a two-thirds vote today.

The Lake Tahoe Unified School District board made the unanimous decision – board member Doug Forte was absent – in quick fashion Tuesday before a small audience.

The decision to close Meyers Elementary was an easier pick than the choice between Al Tahoe or Bijou Community School. Meyers wasn’t included in any of the three closure options; it is the farthest from the middle of South Lake Tahoe.

The argument for closing Al Tahoe was made because of its centralized location, which would provide the opportunity to move the district offices there in the future. The facility could also be used for an expansion of the Boys & Girls Club and the possibility of creating a magnet or charter school.

Bijou was kept open because of the amount of English language learners around the site. It also has the highest percentage of students who walk to school.

Sierra House Elementary will remain open so it can use $1.3 million in state modernization money this summer. Tahoe Valley Elementary has the most room for expansion.

Declining enrollment and a state funding crisis resulted in a revenue loss for LTUSD. In order to cut costs, officials decided to close two schools, slash programs and reduce staff in a move that mirrored many other school districts in California.

Transportation was a key issue during previous workshops on the possible closures. Steve Morales, the district’s facilities manager, estimated that the longest time a student from Meyers will be on a bus is an hour.

Board member Barbara Bannar, a Tahoe Paradise resident, said she will ride the buses with a Meyers’ pickup to check the ride time.

“If there’s a problem we’re going to address it,” Bannar said. “I’ll be on the buses in the fall.”

Another important issue raised is the diversity levels. Under law, districts cannot lessen the number of minority students when closing or opening new schools.

The configuration next year has Sierra House with 652 students, Bijou with 705 and Tahoe Valley with 690. English language learners will consist of 34 percent at Sierra House, 43 percent at Bijou and 11 percent at Tahoe Valley.

Ann Murray, a specialist in education law, agreed with the decision in a letter.

“Any analysis of the matter would also, however, take into consideration that each plan does close Meyers, with the total effect on the district an increase of the number of students experiencing a more diverse setting,” Murray wrote.

The decision came three days before the county education office will issue a rating on the district’s second interim financial report. The first report was given a “qualified” rating, meaning the county had questions on the report’s financial stability.

If the parcel tax doesn’t pass or the district wasn’t specific with its closure resolution, the county is ready to give another qualified or negative rating to the second report, said Vicki Barber, El Dorado County superintendent of schools.

Barber said the district was already told it would have to provide a third interim report based on incomplete information in the multi-year projections of the second.

Yet Monday’s decision could be thrown by the wayside if Measure L, a $60 annual parcel tax to raise $3.2 million yearly for education, passes. The tax will keep sites open next school year and maintain programs and support staff such as librarians, nurses and counselors.

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


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