Nevada Appeal News Service
ZEPHYR COVE - If enrollment patterns continue on a downward spiral Douglas County School District officials will look to consolidate the three Lake Tahoe schools by the 2008-09 school year, officials announced Tuesday.
Enrollment has been dropping at the lake portion of the district since the 1997-98 school year, forcing officials to investigate the possibility of closing a school and reconfiguring grade levels.
With its 10 classrooms and projected enrollment of 132 students in 2008-09, Kingsbury Middle School on Lake Village Drive in Stateline has emerged as the preliminary candidate to be shut down and possibly sold. That could open the path for a kindergarten to sixth-grade configuration at Zephyr Cove Elementary School and a seventh-grade to 12th-grade configuration at Whittell High School.
Rick Kester, director of business services, presented the enrollment trends and future possibilities to a pensive board of trustees and concerned audience members.
"Kingsbury is the school we've concentrated on the most," Kester said.
The projected savings in the school's operating costs is an annual $850,000, Kester said.
Since the 1999-00 school year, when enrollment was 321 students, the number of pupils has dropped to 154 this school year, Kester said. Five years from now the enrollment is projected to be 115 students.
Like neighboring Lake Tahoe Unified School District, Douglas County school officials cite high housing costs as the primary reason for enrollment declines. In addition, the closure of affordable housing units in apartments on Kahle Drive in 2001 contributed to the decline. A survey once determined 153 students were living in those apartments, Kester said.
Trustee Cindy Trigg, the board's representative at the lake, said she has been receiving e-mails and phone calls regarding the possible consolidation. The main question, Trigg said, is why Kingsbury Middle School and not, say, Zephyr Cove Elementary?
Kester replied Zephyr Cove Elementary would require minimal improvements for the change while the middle school would have greater costs for the reconfiguration.
Also, he felt there might be some educational value with having the two remaining schools in close proximity. Zephyr Cove Elementary and Whittell High School both rest on Warrior Way.
Several parents voiced concern about the proposed grade reconfiguration, with seventh-graders and seniors in high school on the same campus.
Chris Sullivan, who has a seventh-grader in the district, lobbied district officials to look at a kindergarten through eighth-grade configuration at Zephyr Cove Elementary. Kester advised her and others the reconfiguration was a preliminary idea.
Parent Sue Schorer asked the board that if and when the middle school is sold, the money be kept for improvements at the remaining lake schools.
Trustee President Sharla Hales echoed that even though the possible consolidation was a few years away, it is best to inform parents and staff to achieve an open, informative process.
"I just want you to know this board is committed to having the parents on board as we go through this," Hales said.
n Contact reporter William Ferchland at email@example.com