Lake parents hope to reverse decision to close Kingsbury

Kingsbury Middle School parents are stumping to get Douglas County School Board trustees to reconsider their decision to close the school in June 2008.

A forum to discuss the issue is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at Whittell High School. Three school board members and Superintendent Carol Lark are expected to attend.

Greg Felton is spearheading the effort to reverse the decision to close Kingsbury Middle School and keep Zephyr Cove Elementary open. He said the parents' club and boosters surveyed parents and found 95 percent of the people wanted the consolidation to take place at the middle school instead.

The consolidation discussion started in 2005, but in June 2006 the board voted 7-0 to close the middle school instead of the elementary school.

One of the Douglas County schools at Lake Tahoe must close due to declining enrollment.

Enrollment was 558 students in 2006, lower than at any time since Kingsbury was built in 1976. Zephyr Cove was selected to remain open because it is located next door to Whittell High School.

One issue re-igniting the debate is the high radon level discovered at the elementary school, Felton said.

According to the Nov. 3 tests done by Fallon Heating and Air Conditioning, five rooms in Zephyr Cove were above the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended action level of 4 picocuries per liter of air.

A picocurie is a measure of radiation.

The tests were taken after the air filters were installed.

To show parents unity, everyone attending the meeting is encouraged to wear red.

Felton said he feels the board has not listened to the parents in this decision.

Cynthia Trigg, clerk for Douglas County School District Board of Trustees, said she hasn't ignored the parents.

"I did not ignore them in the past, and I won't ignore them in the future," she said.

She is looking forward to the meeting so everyone can explain themselves and have an informative discussion.

Trigg said only two issues would move her to put the item back on the agenda.

One is if the radon levels could not be lowered, and the second would be if the high school's new gymnasium was removed from the capital improvement budget.

Whittell was built in 1959 and no improvements have been made to the gym since.

Since radon levels are safe, and the gym remains on the budget, she said she is comfortable with her decision.

Tracy Owen-Chapman is a parent of three children, one at the middle school and two at the elementary school.

She said the board needs to prove to her why the elementary school is the best decision.

"Looking at the two schools from a physical standpoint, the obvious choice is KMS," she said.

Built in 1962, Zephyr Cove Elementary requires an estimated $1 million in structural improvements and Kingsbury Middle School requires an estimated $460,000 in improvements, according to the capital improvements and renewals by site document by the district's business services department.

Initially the set-up for the elementary school will cost more than the middle school, Trigg said. But due the proximity of Zephyr Cove Elementary to the high school, both would be able to share resources easier.

Owen-Chapman's main priority is for her children to receive the maximum education value out of this decision.

She said parents should attend the forum to gain information from all angles of the issue.

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