Schools see drop in enrollment |

Schools see drop in enrollment

William Ferchland

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ South Tahoe High School seniors Chris Mason, left, and Cristina Soresca work on their cooking skills in a culinary arts class on Tuesday.

Since the start of the school year, Lake Tahoe Unified School District had its student population drop by 65 pupils, a cause for concern for Superintendent James Tarwater.

There were 4,544 students when the school year began in September – 70 students more than when the 2004-05 school year ended in June. The boost provided hope to district officials since decreases in student population directly impacts finances.

“Am I worried? Yeah, I’m worried,” Tarwater said.

“I won’t over-panic but you know what I mean,” he added.

District officials hoped to stave off enrollment declines or at least lessen the drop. The issue was a topic during the campaign for two seats on the district’s school board.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Angela Swanson, one of the two unofficial winners, at one candidate forum while referring to declining enrollment.

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If it holds, the drop of 65 students means the district would have to cut more than $300,000 in spending. But with savings brought on by temporarily freezing administrative positions and attempts to increase student attendance levels, Tarwater hopes cuts can be diverted.

Two big drops occurred in October and earlier this month. One stretch in October had 21 students down while 25 students left the district a few weeks ago, Tarwater said.

Tarwater is puzzled by the recent drop but said the October decrease came around the same time as the changes to Caesars Tahoe casino were announced after its sale to Columbia Sussex.

First, fifth and 12th grades have seen the biggest decreases, Tarwater said.

Kindergarten numbers have grown from 266 students to 280 while other grades, such as seventh, have fluctuated.