Parents are raising questions about Douglas County schools consolidation |

Parents are raising questions about Douglas County schools consolidation

Charles Sizemore
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Douglas County School District Superintendent Carol Lark speaks to parents at a meeting last week concerning the school consolidation.

The discovery of elevated levels of radon at Zephyr Cove Elementary School has rekindled an issue some parents thought had been settled: Should the Douglas County School District close Kingsbury Middle School to consolidate lake schools?

The Douglas County School District Board of Trustees decided to close KMS at its June 13, 2006, meeting at Douglas High School. During the meeting, a group of parents offered thoughts through a presentation on whether to close Zephyr or Kingsbury.

Among their concerns — which included safety, cost and tactical considerations — was that there wasn’t enough available data for them to “accurately assess which facility best meets the needs of students and teachers,” according to the presentation.

Complicating the matter at the time was that the district was anticipating a new superintendent, curriculum director and finance director to be hired. The considerations prompted the parents to request the board delay consolidation until a comprehensive evaluation — including a cost-benefit analysis — was done, and until the new administration could help decide the matter.

Shortly after the parents’ presentation, the board voted to close Kingsbury.

“I’ve never been treated like I was at that board meeting,” recalled Kevin Kjer, whose daughters Kelsey, 9, and Kaitlyn, 7, both attend Zephyr.

Some parents echoed Kjer’s statement, saying the board ignored their input.

“We did not understand why there was so much pressure to make a decision so quickly,” said Brian Swoger, a Stateline resident with two kids at lake schools.

Swoger said the district closed Kingsbury without enough investigation.

“There was no cost-benefit analysis,” Swoger said.

But new facts have come to light since that original meeting that many parents think should prompt the board to reconsider its decision.

Elevated levels of radon at Zephyr are perhaps the most significant.

At Wednesday’s community meeting, Superintendent Carol Lark outlined the district’s plans to mitigate the radon problem at Zephyr. Measures include installing HEPA filters in every room, retesting, and then installing an active soil depressurization (ASD) system beneath the school if the HEPA filters prove ineffective.

While most parents at the meeting seemed pleased with the measures, many asked why the district would choose to keep their kids at a school with more than 10 times the radon level as in Kingsbury.

Greg Felton, whose 9-year-old son, Aubrey, attends Zephyr, said the safety of students should be the highest concern. If financial considerations between closing Zephyr or Kingsbury are more or less equal, then why not close Zephyr based on safety concerns, Felton asked.

Cindy Trigg, a Douglas County School District Board of Trustees member and lake schools’ representative, confirmed Monday that she’s received parent phone calls and e-mails about consolidation, but declined to comment without board presence.

Lark, who became superintendent after the board decided to close Kingsbury, cited losing instruction time to traveling time for shared staff as the thrust of the board’s decision to close kingsbury. Lark could not speak Monday about a cost-benefit analysis, but cited the expense of fixing Kingsbury’s leaky roof as a factor.

Holly Luna, Douglas County School District business director, confirmed Monday she had received a repair estimate for the KMS roof of $460,000.

Parents say they want a more transparent analysis of the consolidation process and which school will be closed. To date, no clear cost-benefit analysis has been made available for public scrutiny.

“As long as (the district) does it, and does it the right way, we’ll be happy with their decision,” Kjer said.

The next Douglas County School District Board of Trustees meeting is at 3:30 p.m. today at Kingsbury Middle School.

The agenda includes a discussion of radon and the district’s plan to mitigate levels at Zephyr Cove Elementary School, an enrollment report for the 2007-’08 school year and revisions and approval to the district’s five-year capital improvement plan.

Although consolidation is not on the agenda for today’s meeting, the public may comment at 6 p.m. on topics not specifically addressed in the board’s agenda.

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