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Tentative timeline set for reopening of Al Tahoe Elementary School

Claire Cudahy
ccudahy@tahoedailytribune.com

Lake Tahoe Unified School District has set forth a tentative schedule for the reopening of Al Tahoe Elementary School, with a first step of introducing elementary robotics and STEAM curriculum in the 2017-18 school year for the existing 198 preschoolers currently housed at the school.

Built in 1958, Al Tahoe was closed in 2004 due to declining enrollment and the reorganization of South Tahoe Middle School. However, with the current four elementary schools at maximum capacity, LTUSD hopes — among other goals — to create some classroom space within these schools by reopening Al Tahoe.

LTUSD Board of Education discussed plans for the future of the site at both the Jan. 17 and 31 meetings.

In addition to Al Tahoe acting as a science, technology, engineering, art/design, and math (STEAM) academy, LTUSD has plans to modernize the building, create an employee childcare center, and have it serve as a laboratory school to train future educators.

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At present, the building houses the Boys & Girls Club of Lake Tahoe and a special education preschool, as well as seven other classrooms of preschoolers, which will begin the STEAM curriculum in the coming school year. The district plans to stagger out the addition of transitional kindergarten, kindergarten and grades one through five to the reopened school over the course of four years.

The 2017-18 school year will also see the creation of the employee daycare center at Al Tahoe, which the district hopes will reduce childcare costs down from the community average of $40/day to $15/day.

For the 2018-19 school year, the district plans to bring on 44 students in transitional kindergarten and another 44 in kindergarten.

The following school year, 2019-20, grades one through three (44 students per grade) will be welcomed at the Al Tahoe location. Lastly, in the 2020-21 school year, Al Tahoe will allow in 30 third-grade students, 28 fourth/fifth-grade students, and 30 fifth-grade students.

LTUSD Superintendent James Tarwater said that the timeline for the reopening and the number of grades that will be at the school after the first four years are contingent on a number of factors — funding being a big one.

“We have to receive funds from the state,” said Tarwater.

LTUSD has $1.35 million from the passage of bond funds from 2016 Prop. 51 to begin the renovation process of the school, but is also applying for funds from the $500-million state modernization fund.

“Once we know about the money from them then we will line up a specific timeframe,” explained Tarwater.

The estimated completion date for the modernization project — which ranges from classroom and cafeteria remodeling to roof and electrical system upgrades — is the summer of 2018.

Tarwater noted that depending on enrollment rates, Al Tahoe could ultimately end up not being a preschool to fifth grade school.

“It could be preschool to third grade. It depends on the responsiveness of the community, but the benefit it freeing up space in the other schools,” said Tarwater. “Right now we are really jammed in grades four and five at the other schools, and by taking some of the kindergartners and first graders, that will give me another room for fourth and fifth grade classrooms.”

The district predicts a slight gain from 3,907 students to 3,916 students for the 2017-18 school year, but has noted more growth in middle school than in its elementary and high schools.

Ultimately, Al Tahoe will also offer space for the training of future educators through the Career Technical Education programs at South Tahoe High School and the Lake Tahoe Community College and Sierra Nevada College Teacher Preparation program.

Tarwater said the prospect of getting Al Tahoe Elementary School open once again — and with the addition of a specialized STEAM curriculum — is “exciting,” and just another way the district is offering parents and children choices when it comes to the core “theme” of their education.


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