County's only charter school may be victim of budget cut

Sierra Crest Academy, the only public charter school in Carson Valley, could be closing its doors at the end of the month due to Gov. Jim Gibbons' proposed 4.5 percent cut for K-12 education, according to a letter by Katherine Wakeman-Nelson, president of Sierra Crest Academy's governing board.

"Due to a budget shortfall and additional financial hardships being placed on us by the state, Sierra Crest Academy will, in all likelihood, shut its doors at the end of this school year," said Wakeman-Nelson ain her letter to parents. "If you have been following the news then you are aware of the budget cuts that the state has proposed will be implemented. These cuts include a 4.5 percent reduction to public schools, including our school, effective this school year. Sierra Crest Academy will be looking at an additional $20,000 budget shortfall in addition to the $50,000 that we were already experiencing."

Sierra Crest Academy became Douglas County's first public charter school in the fall of 2004. It was designed to provide a small, personal atmosphere for "at risk" students, students who'd struggled at larger schools. Besides private donations, the school receives money from one state fund, the distributive student account, dependent on the number of students it has. Currently, the school enrolls 70 students. However, unlike other schools in Douglas County School District, Sierra Crest must pay for the lease of their building in Minden.

"A third of the money we get from the state goes to pay the lease," said Amy Sando, an English teacher and former president of Sierra Crest Academy's governing board. "When we found out about Gov. Gibbons' 4.5 percent budget cut, we thought charter schools were exempt. They didn't invite us to any of the meetings. Last Wednesday, we got a letter informing us of the cut for our school."

Sando said a small school means a small budget, a budget which, half-way through the school year, is already expended on year-long contracts.

"The services are contracted, so cutting money half way through the year literally means we don't enough to cover for the rest of the year," said Sando. "It's disproportionate how it affects us than other students. It's horrible to do to the children. We have had parents cry. We have had kids from the beginning who are frightened and have a lot of anxiety about going to a big school."

Sierra Crest officials are meeting with the Department of Education in Carson City Wednesday, and will host a meeting for parents and other concerned parties at Wednesday night, 5:30 p.m., at Sierra Crest Academy, 1701 Lucerne Street in Minden.


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