Back to school |

Back to school

Ryan Manning / Special to the TribuneSierra House Elementary School kindergartner Andrew DeCesare is led to school Tuesday by his mom, Autumn.

After students filed back into Lake Tahoe Unified School District classrooms on Tuesday morning after summer break, school board members discussed some of the success the district has experienced over the past year, as well as some of the challenges ahead.

Test scores are reportedly up, but concerns over California’s budget are likely to persist at least through the 2009-’10 school year, according to school administrators.

Board chair Wendy David said keeping an eye on moves by the cash-strapped state will be one of the priorities for the school board during the next year, during a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon.

At the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday night, the school board approved more than $100,000 in cuts to the district’s transportation budget for the 2009-’10 school year because of a 20 percent reduction in state transportation funding for the district.

Although the state cuts equaled $204,000, the board approved $116,000 in cuts to maintain bus service to South Tahoe High School.

State law does not require school districts to provide bus transportation to high school students, and cutting service to the high school would have accounted for all the state cuts, but administrators said cutting the bus service to the high school would lead to a unacceptable drop in attendance.

How the district will make up the approximately $88,000 shortfall isn’t known, although the transportation department is expected to closely monitor the budget as the school year progresses.

Before approving the transportation cuts, the board required district transportation planners to work with parents of Bijou Elementary School students involved in the Two-Way Immersion program.

Two parents of students in the program voiced concerns at Tuesday’s meeting that the school was bearing most of the burden from the cuts, which eliminated bus stops, two full routes, one morning route and two full- time bus driver positions.

* Unofficial results for standardized tests taken by Lake Tahoe Unified School District students last school year show “marked improvement” from previous years’ results, said school board member Larry Green.

Official test results are expected to be released on Sept. 15.

“Right now we’re focusing on what is it we did last year and make sure we keep it going,” Green said.

* Human Resources Director Jim Watson said he was “pretty optimistic” about enrollment numbers at the start of the school year. Elementary school enrollment throughout the district on the first day stood at 1,712, four more students than at the end of the last school year, Watson said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Middle school enrollment was down 45 students from the 846 counted in June and high school enrollment was down eight students from the 1,115 counted in June, Watson said.

The school district tends to gain students as the school year progresses, Watson told the board.

Superintendent Jim Tarwater said it’s encouraging that 340 kindergarten students were enrolled in the district, 55 more than were enrolled in June.

* Construction on Measure G funded improvements at South Tahoe High School has hit couple of minor delays, said District Facilities Director Steve Morales. Although the delays will require extra work days on the current projects, Morales said feedback on the construction so far has been “very positive.”

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