Lake school might close a year earlier

Disturbed parents voiced their displeasure at a Whittell High School meeting after learning about a Douglas County School District proposal that would possibly move the closure of one of its schools a year earlier than previously discussed.

Douglas County School District Superintendent John Soderman and Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Rick Kester presented closure information to roughly 20 people in Whittell High School's library on June 1.

Soderman will gather input, and share his opinions before going to the board of trustees June 13 with his recommendations.

Declining enrollment has forced the district to look at closing either Zephyr Cove Elementary School or Kingsbury Middle School. The board previously voted to have a kindergarten to sixth grade configuration at the existing school while housing seventh graders to high school seniors at Whittell.

In addition, the board voted to close a school site and enact the changes for the 2008-09 school year.

Soderman's recommendation of having the closure a year earlier, which he said was prompted at the request of several board members, would remove the "awkward" time between now and the closure.

Kathy Percival, perhaps the most outspoken parent among a chorus of upset and curious voices, argued against moving the date a year ahead.

"The district and board loses a lot of credibility if they go back on the date," she said.

Percival even threatened to contact the district attorney regarding open meeting violations if a majority of board members were talking together about the issue without being in session.

There was even disagreement between the two administrators on the closure date. Kester believes the closing should be kept at 2008-09 since a decision has already been made.

Soderman and Kester assured students could fit into the two sites a year earlier. Soderman was not shy about his preference for Kingsbury closing due to the proximity of Whittell and Zephyr Cove and possibilities of sharing staff and resources without cutting into class time.

Most of the parents lobbied for Kingsbury, saying it is a newer, safer site far from Highway 50 and the dangers of Warrior Way.

"That's a very dangerous section of highway," said parent Dee Robinson.

Parents added during this time of year youths park along Warrior Way to go to the popular Zephyr Cove Beach across the street.

One parent suggested rerouting Warrior Way to go around the ball fields. Another had an idea of installing speed dips to help slow traffic. Soderman and Kester, who will both be retiring after this school year, said improvements can be made along Warrior Way.

Moreover, 13 classrooms are needed to house the elementary students. Kingsbury has 12, while Zephyr Cove has 16, but the district has $600,000 it can use for facility improvements.

Both sites need improvements. Zephyr Cove lacks an adequate heating and cooling system while Kingsbury has a leaky roof.

Also raised was the project bringing indoor ball fields for practice purposes at Whittell. Originally slated for construction this summer, the project was put on hold because of different ideas on its intent, such as using it for physical education classes.

Some in the crowd felt slighted the project, hailed in previous meetings as providing more room and possible separation for the Whittell students, was dismissed.

"Now I don't hear the encouragement in voices about the facility," said Damon Kixmiller.

A handful of parents were on board with Soderman, believing the decision should be made quickly so the transition can be smoother.

Dissatisfied parents said they would lobby the board themselves. Soderman dismissed, but said it was a possible avenue, of having incoming Superintendent Carol Lark make her own recommendation to the board.

"I care about the district," he said. "I got this thing in motion. I want a resolution."


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