Magnet school strides toward opening bell |

Magnet school strides toward opening bell

William Ferchland

The bell will toll for everyone.

A lottery to choose students for Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School might not happen after 210 applications have been received from interested parents.

While nine days remain before the application deadline of Aug. 10, Lake Tahoe Unified School District Superintendent James Tarwater said even if 30 more applications arrive, the lottery won’t occur as scheduled on Aug. 15-16.

Not having a lottery would allow all applicants entry into the school.

When the school – set to open Sept. 6 at the former Meyers Elementary site, closed last school year because of budget cuts – was approved unanimously by the district’s board July 18 the projected enrollment was 180 students.

“I thought 180 (students) was a goal that might not be reached,” Tarwater said. “I thought that was pretty high. I was wrong but this community really responds to certain things.”

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Eight teachers also have applied, Tarwater said, with most coming from Tahoe Valley Elementary School and one from South Tahoe Middle School. Since eight teacher positions were targeted for the projected 180 students, Tarwater hopes two more teachers will apply.

Teacher interviews, scheduled in case the number of interested instructors outnumbered available positions, also are not likely to happen.

Student applications represent a broad range of grade levels. As it stands, the school would have one full class in each grade level from kindergarten to fifth grade. Two combination classes would exist: one with first- and second-graders and another with fourth- and fifth-graders.

“It’s looking good. It really is,” Tarwater said.

At the school classrooms are being arranged. Later this month a custodian will help things get in order, and plywood covering the school’s windows will be removed.

Teachers assigned to the school will have in-service training from Aug. 22-26 and then attend districtwide training the following week, said Barbara Davis, assistant superintendent.

Most, if not all, of California’s educational standards for public schools can be taught with an environmental focus, said Christine McMorrow, program manager for the nonprofit Sierra Watershed Education Partnership, a group of three certified teachers who act as liaisons between schools and environmental agencies.

Citing lessons instituted at schools in Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, McMorrow said kindergarten to fifth-graders can learn all sorts of lessons from environmental projects.

A demonstration site of Best Management Practices at Tahoe Lake Elementary provided students the opportunity to map the campus, write letters to businesses and do some public speaking.

History lessons can focus on how communities affect the environment and vice versa, McMorrow said.

“Every public school in California is required to meet California state content standards,” she said. “How you go about teaching those and meeting those vary from school to school.”

Incorporated in 1997, Sierra Watershed Education Partnership began working with Lake Tahoe Unified School District last year in helping form partnerships and checking out school sites, McMorrow said.

The district’s magnet school has placed plans for a charter school on hiatus, if not the extinction list. Two proposals for a charter school were formed last school year, one by parents and the other by the district, but faced initial hardships when both were denied state funding.

Davis, assistant superintendent, said the district avoided applying for start-up funding before a July 15 deadline.

Parent Pam Singer, who helped lead the citizen petition for the proposed Lake Tahoe Community Academy, said the magnet school filled, what she felt, was a need for education options for parents.

The proposed academy had its account closed. It held no money.

“The magnet (school) was a great compromise,” she said.

– E-mail William Ferchland at