Class size reduction facing major hurdles | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Class size reduction facing major hurdles

William Ferchland

A lease of property that generated an unexpected $210,000 won’t go toward the resurrection of class-size reduction, Lake Tahoe Unified School District officials stated.

The money was raised from leasing district property to South Tahoe Public Utility District. Parents and others became hopeful the $210,000 could save class-size reduction, a program that limits students in kindergarten to third grade at 20 per teacher.

The program was included in $1.5 million in budget cuts for next school year.

Board members held their first discussion on possible avenues to bring it back. Ed Costa, interim chief financial officer, presented two options to the board.

Both raised confusion.

The first option was the full reinstatement of class-size reduction at a cost of $363,330 solely for the return of two dozen teachers.

The second, at a cost of $79,290 per year, would have two teachers assigned to a group of 30 or so students in the primary grades.

Board member Barbara Bannar wondered about the discrepancy between the program’s cost of $240,000 for this year and the $363,330 mark for next year.

“I’m disappointed because I feel we should have been given more accurate numbers,” she said.

Superintendent Diane Scheerhorn said former Chief Financial Officer Diane Head rounded numbers and Costa provided more specific financial figures. Scheerhorn said the new number could reflect increases in teacher salaries by step and column.

Chris Campion, a Sierra House Elementary parent, was “dismayed” with administrators who failed to present the cheaper version of class-size reduction during focus group meetings last fall.

Scheerhorn was stumped.

“I don’t know why it wasn’t raised,” she said.

In the end, the board decided to keep the $210,000 in a special reserve fund for unexpected or necessary future costs.

Jim Weinberg, another parent, warned the board to keep fiscally sound and reminded the board the state could take over the financially struggling district in less than two years.

“People don’t know the desperate level of district finances,” he said.

Wendy David, board president, agreed and said the $210,000 would help keep the district financially buoyant in the short-term future.

“I do think that right now we are in an incredible crisis at a critical time,” she said.

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


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