North Lake Tahoe Bonanza: Revitalizing Incline’s schools during decline

By Jim Clark
Special to the Bonanza

Washoe County School Superintendent Paul Dugan has some challenging news for Incline Village/Crystal Bay. Addressing local service clubs, civic groups and parent organizations he produces a graph with an axis showing time and the other axis, student enrollment, to illustrate the trend of Incline High School’s declining student population. By extending the trend line out in time the graph gives viewers a vision of the gradual shrinking of the public school population in Incline Village/Crystal Bay.
Nevada’s public education funding plan is based on school districts being reimbursed their operating expenses on a per student basis, so it’s patently obvious that if local enrollments continue to sag the school district, particularly at this time of statewide budget cuts, will have to take a close look at the resources it devotes to this community.

However accurate the statistics may be, they don’t furnish any hint of what, if anything, can be done to reverse the trend.

Fortunately some locals have set about to find solutions to this quandary. The first order of business was to be sure that advanced placement and other honors classes continue to be available for Incline High School students without having to drive to Reno to participate. Fortunately Incline’s jewel, Sierra Nevada College, provided the answer.

College President Bob Maxson has arranged with both the Washoe County School District and the Nevada Department of Education for additional honors credit classes to be given at the college. Final approvals were given just last month, so in the future Incline/Crystal Bay students will be able to receive dual high school and college credits for completion of such courses.

This is a huge opportunity for continued and improved educational excellence in our little community.

The next piece of the puzzle is to figure out what to do about the student population trend. Lake Tahoe School appears to be doing swimmingly having grown internally to where it now tops out at eighth grade. The community certainly supports public education holding fundraisers such as the Star Follies, Golf fore Education, the Crab Feed as well as the activities of the Incline Schools Academic Education Foundation. So why does Incline High School’s enrollment decline by about 20 students a year? A related question is whether the trend may in the future affect the middle and elementary schools.

Some have concluded that Incline Village/Crystal Bay is “Aspen-izing,” or becoming a community of vacation homes, and that the trend is irreversible. There is evidence to support that viewpoint. In the 2000 general election the total vote for IVGID trustee divided by three open seats indicates 4,734 voters; the IVGID election in 2002 indicates 3,071 voters; the IVGID election in 2004 indicates 4,122 voters; the 2006 IVGID election attracted 3,282 voters; however there were 3,709 votes cast that year in the highly contested race for Incline Justice of the Peace. Turnout is heavier in presidential election years but the overall trend of actual voters over four elections mirrors the trend in Incline/Crystal Bay student population.

However, hope springs eternal. Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki lives in Zephyr Cove. He and his wife Kelly have three pre-high school children and had similar concerns about trends at Whittell High School. Kelly studied Nevada’s new “Empowerment School” law, organized parents and teachers and, together with Whittell High School Principal Sue Shannon, has led her community into a reversal of their educational malaise and revitalized their community’s schools.

Maybe that’s something we should take a look at for Incline Village/Crystal Bay.

Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, a vice chair of the Washoe County GOP and a member of the Nevada GOP Central Committee.

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