The bell tolls for one-classroom school at Kirkwood resort

Kirkwood - After 17 years of being a one-classroom school at Kirkwood Mountain Resort, an enrollment of just one student this year forced the closure of Kirkwood Meadows Elementary.

Alpine County Unified School District decided to close the school in July after enrollment projections didn't anticipate any more students than the one kindergartner, said Superintendent James Parsons.

The school was located at Sun Meadows condominium complex, with curriculum involving students following the Iditarod sled-dog race online or ice skating at Kirkwood Meadow Resort.

Maggie Fowle, the school's main teacher the past six years, expected enrollment troubles after six eighth-graders graduated last school year.

Parents who worked at Kirkwood with students who used transfers to attend the small school got jittery and pulled their children out, she said.

Fowle is now teaching at Diamond Valley School, the same Markleeville school the kindergarten student is attending.

Last school year Fowle was teaching 10 students. This year her first- and second-grade combination class has 26 students.

Tim Cohee, president of Kirkwood who had two children who had attended the school, said he hopes the school will reopen, albeit a different location, in the coming years if enrollment improves.

Cohee, who prefers to call the closing "temporary," said he would like the school to reopen in its own structure in Kirkwood Valley.

The school needed fire code improvements such as widening the doors if it opened this year, Parsons said.

"That issue alone wouldn't have closed the school," he said. "If we had a dozen students there that issue would have been fixed."

Typically the school would cater to six to a dozen students. Money from the state - $90,000 - would provide most of the funding for the school with the district supplying about $15,000, Parsons said.

The school opened, in part, because district officials didn't like the prospect of students being bussed over Carson Pass in the winter.

Although Fowle likes having other teachers around to talk to and enjoys Diamond Valley's library and computer lab, she misses the way of life at Kirkwood.

"I really miss the individual attention that the students could get and being able to help kids when they needed it," she said. "It's frustrating when you can't help everybody at the same time.

And the skiing wasn't bad, Fowle said.

"Those kids had it made," she said.


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