Alone and empty but still remembered: Parents, merchants reflect on loss of Meyers Elementary School
April 6, 2005
From her post at Liras Supermarket, Claudia Bishop has gained an understanding from disgruntled Meyers parents about the aftershocks of the community’s lone elementary school closing in June.
“I hear somebody’s horror story every day,” said the supermarket’s produce manager and head clerk.
As a casualty of budget cuts and declining enrollment, the closure of Meyers Elementary School not only created grumblings from parents about subsequent overcrowding at the other remaining sites but eliminated an integral and convenient place for discourse, chats and get-togethers.
For a good part of the 37 years the school and its staff educated students, there was the pride of parent involvement and familiarity. Parents knew other parent’s names, secretaries could identify students. Fund-raisers involving spaghetti dinners occurred often.
It was a communication hub for a small community. Car pools would be arranged. Gossip shared. Spontaneous trips to a cafe for breakfast would be decided and made after the children headed to school.
Lori Marino remembers those times. A former Meyers parent whose second-grader now attends Sierra House, she now can hold physical proof of the loss of personal relationships.
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The way she describes the proof, a computer generated letter generically stating the disadvantages of her son’s days away from school while ill, Marino becomes sickened herself.
“The whole difference is at Meyers they knew me, they knew my son,” Marino said. “There wouldn’t have been computerized letters.”
Part of deliberations last school year by administrators with Lake Tahoe Unified School District was reconfiguring school boundaries in neighborhoods.
Since Meyers Elementary was tapped for closure – as well as Al Tahoe Elementary, which rests in the center of South Lake Tahoe – its 387 students had to be reassigned.
Roughly half went to Tahoe Valley while the other half went to Sierra House.
“This year has been difficult because everybody is trying to relearn,” said parent Pam Singer. “Instead of having new kindergarten parents coming in there’s hundreds of new parents. You’re trying to learn except it doesn’t have that warm fuzzy feeling because you don’t know everybody which is kind of sad. I miss it.”
Tahoe Valley Principal Mark Romagnolo said some of his strongest parent volunteers are from Meyers. Coincidentally they’re the same parents attempting to open a charter school at the defunct site.
“They really stepped up to try and make Tahoe Valley the best possible school they can by being really active parents,” he said.
It’s tough to tell whether the closure of Meyers Elementary and the dispersal of its 387 students hurt business in the community.
Steve Parker, manager at Liras Supermarket, cited a downturn in business this year but wouldn’t solely attribute it to the school’s closure.
“I don’t think I’ve really seen that much difference from it,” he said.
Greg Daum, owner of Tahoe Paradise Chevron and Food Mart, said he’s seen a loss of business from residents. No longer do teachers who live in South Lake Tahoe make frequent trips to Meyers, he said. Parents can bypass the gas station if they use North Upper Truckee Road to get into town.
“That traffic flow no longer exists,” he said.
Employees at Bob Dog’s Pizza and Chris’ Cafe would not comment, but Singer said parents would utilize both restaurants during and after school.
In September 2003, one of two major gas stations in Meyers, Shell, closed its doors for economic reasons. The site, also a place to trade news while buying coffee or gas, remains empty.
While they don’t see each other as often, some Meyers parents are able to reconvene at sporting events and dance recitals.
School board member and Meyers resident Sue Novasel is hopeful the site can be resurrected by a nonprofit agency or the like. Currently the school has its windows boarded, playgrounds inaccessible by snow and a sign that reads “Meyers 1967-2004.”
“It definitely had an affect in our community,” Novasel said. “It’s hard to gauge the impact at this point because it’s hard to see where we’re going.”
– E-mail William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org