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Sierra House closure rumors put to rest

Rumors about the future closing of Sierra House Elementary brought more than 100 parents together for a meeting on communication, fact-finding and future activism.

Angela Swanson, Sierra House Parent-Teacher Association president who spearheaded the Wednesday night meeting, instantly informed parents the school was not closing. However, Swanson warned if enrollment continues to radically dip, a school closure could become a realistic option.

Swanson relayed data obtained from a meeting with Superintendent Diane Scheerhorn.



Parents learned of information released at an Oct. 22 Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board of Education meeting. Most were surprised at the findings and asked about the next board meeting on Nov. 12.

At the October meeting, district and school staff listed all educational programs and the cost to run an elementary school. About $460,000 is required for utilities and non-teacher salaries.




The district expected a loss of 200 students compared to last year. Lake Tahoe Unified gets state funding for every student. The final enrollment figures won’t be cemented until January when the state budget will be revised and second semester student numbers become available.

The district expects to lose about $1 million in state funding next year from this year’s declining enrollment.

Swanson echoed the information to parents. Enrollment charts were displayed showing a sharp decline of kindergarten students from five years ago.

“If you don’t have any kindergartners, you don’t have them in 12th grade,” Swanson said.

The rumor of Sierra House’s closing was probably linked to the school’s having the lowest enrollment, 403, among the five elementary schools.

“I think they gave a lot of information to put a stop to rumors,” said Sierra House parent Lorraine Leonard. “I’m just trying to keep my head on straight.”

A majority of hands were raised when Swanson asked if anybody knew people who left South Lake Tahoe. All agreed the departures are a community problem surrounding economic issues.

School Services of California, an educational consulting firm, has been working with the district on fiscal responsibility and will meet with school staff starting next week.

Questions for Swanson and fellow Sierra House parent Chris Campian ranged from the loss of children to home schooling and what can be done. Swanson replied parents should attend board meetings, build a consensus and talk to district members before budget decisions are made in February.

School board President Lennie Schwartz, member Wendy David and Scheerhorn attended the meeting to listen to concerns.

“I thought Angela did a great job,” Schwartz said. “As a board we want input from the community. When you make a decision in a vacuum you don’t always make the best decision. The more we can hear from the community the more data we have.”

Scheerhorn echoed Schwartz’s sentiments and said parents’ concerns will be addressed at workshops and discussions, including the Nov. 13 coffee and conversation with Sierra House parents at the school.

“I’m extraordinarily impressed with the format, the comments that were made and what this evening provided for the board and me,” Scheerhorn said. “The input will be heard and be taken into consideration with the final decision.”

— Contact William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com


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