Whittell High School parents turned out at Wednesday’s Douglas County School Board meeting to ask trustees to help keep their school viable.
“We want to not be forgotten or pacified, but truly cared for,” parent Kelly Gardner said. “We want to know that we are a community with a voice. We want our kids voices to truly matter to you.”
This was the second meeting where Lake Tahoe parents attended a Douglas County School Board meeting en masse to discuss the loss of programs at the school.
The most recent blow was the loss of the school’s music teacher, who is moving away. Because the schools at Lake Tahoe have a shrinking enrollment, programs have been cut over the years since Kingsbury Middle School closed.
Gardner said parents worked to make the consolidation of high school and middle school students work smoothly until the school lost its vice principal.
“Many activities at the middle school level no longer exist,” she said. “I am hopeful you have empathy for our lack of trust and that we need commitment to run our schools based on what is best for our kids and not from an accountants’ perspective.”
After the meeting, Whittell parent Kevin Kjer said he felt cautiously optimistic.
“It’s really about building trust, and not letting things drop during the summer while people are on vacation.”
The school district has scheduled a meeting with the Whittell parent group on May 27, and will form a school performance planning team and a formal study group in the fall.
Superintendent Lisa Noonan informed trustees a meeting with the Whittell parent group has been scheduled for Tuesday, and will form a school performance planning team and a formal study group in the fall.
Thomas Moore, school board president, expressed his support for the plan presented by Noonan and for a solution.
“It is a massive undertaking,” Moore said. “What is the education plan for Lake Tahoe? That is going to be a very difficult and painful conversation. I would hope this group will be able to come up with a comprehensive plan and that it will contain action points.”
Whittell, which opened its doors in 1960, has a current enrollment listed as 208 students in grades 7-12.
Among the cuts made, Gardner noted, have been the vice-principal’s position and 20 class periods.
“Why are we here? We want the best schools possible for our kids,” she said.
The vice-principal position is especially important since the closure of Kingsbury Middle School.
“He (principal Crespin Esquivel) has two schools to run,” said Whittell Boosters spokesperson Kim Felton. “It’s one facility, but it’s still two schools.”
Two Reno television stations attended the meeting on Wednesday night.
Whittell earned a silver medal in U.S. News & World Report’s “Rankings of American High Schools.” The school was ranked second in the state and No. 810 nationally.
R-C Sports Editor Dave Price contributed to this story.