Parents can't change district's position on Kingsbury closure

Parents met Monday night with Douglas County School District officials to urge them to reconsider their decision to close Kingsbury Middle School in June, but no one budged.

Most of the crowd of parents showed up at the forum wearing red as a way to demonstrate their unity. When the parents were surveyed by the parents' club and boosters, 95 percent wanted to keep the middle school open.

District Superintendent Carol Lark also was at the meeting, as were District Clerk Cynthia Trigg and district Board of Trustees members Thomas Moore and Keith Roman.

"I'm hear to listen to you and listen carefully," Lark said. "And I hope you do the same for me."

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

None of the attending board members plan to put the issue back on the agenda.

One of the Douglas County schools at Lake Tahoe must close because of declining enrollment. Last year, enrollment was 558 students, and this school year only totaled 510 students.

Lawrence Howell, mediator for the forum, said the meeting's purpose was to explain the reasoning behind the decision to close the middle school.

At the beginning of the meeting, parent Kevin Kjer said the reasons still were unclear to him.

"I'm having a heck of a time being a cheerleader for this," Kjer said.

Radon has become a factor in the renewed interest in the consolidation debate after Zephyr Cove Elementary School was found to have high levels of it.

According to Nov. 3 tests done by Fallon Heating and Air Conditioning, five rooms in Zephyr Cove Elementary 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 air filters were installed.

The issue of the cost of consolidation also came up during questioning at the forum.

Built in 1962, Zephyr Cove Elementary requires an estimated $1 million for an upgraded boiler and a new HVAC system, and Kingsbury Middle School, built in 1976, requires an estimated $460,000 for a new roof, according to the capital improvements and renewals by site document from the district's business-services department.

Lark said Zephyr Cove Elementary would be more cost-effective with its proximity to Whittell High School, because the facilities could share staff. Potential shared positions would be nurse, psychologist, speech therapist, special education, art, music, physical education and others.

Greg Felton said the district wasn't answering any questions with specifics, such as the differences in the costs of sharing staff between Kingsbury and Whittell vs. Zephyr Cove Elementary and the high school.

"It makes it difficult to discuss it with them," Felton said.

Mikie Peacock, who teaches English as a second language, said it's tough to share staff between two schools, even if they are only four miles apart.

As a teacher who moved from Zephyr Cove Elementary to Kingsbury to teach during the day, she said the commute is difficult. Teachers have difficulties packing up materials, finishing up lessons with students and making it to the other school on time.

"The 10-minute issue is the issue of student engagement," Peacock said. If a schedule falls behind, classes become backed up all day.

Trigg said people need to stop thinking about the building and start thinking about the students and staff inside when deciding on the issue.


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