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TTUSD Report on Riversage Charter Petition

On September 6, 2022, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District (TTUSD) received a charter petition to establish the Riversage Charter School under TTUSD’s jurisdiction. The petition proposes establishing a new charter school based on Waldorf Core Principals within the district, beginning in the 2023-2024 school year. The charter school plans to initially serve 165 transitional kindergarten through 8th-grade students and expects enrollment to grow to 240 students by its fifth year of operation. 

As dictated by the California Department of Education, there is a set process school districts must adhere to when evaluating a charter proposal before either approving or denying it. We believe these protocols are important to provide compliance, transparency, and an extensive vetting process, ensuring the most positive results for all the students we serve. On November 2, 2022, representatives from Riversage Chater were allocated time at the Board of Trustees meeting to present an overview of their petition. Following that presentation, the public was invited to speak during public comment and/or submit written comments. Then board members were able to ask questions regarding the submitted proposal. This meeting can be viewed in its entirety on the Tahoe Truckee Media website.  

Following that public hearing, TTUSD was then required to publish a Staff Report outlining recommendations for accepting or denying the petition which can be found here. The remaining step is to hold a special board meeting on November 28, 2022, where the TTUSD Board of Trustees will hear public comment and use all available information to make a decision to either grant or deny the charter. Community members are welcome to attend this special board meeting which will take place at the District Offices. The specific meeting time will be posted on within the next week.  

After a careful and comprehensive review and analysis of the Riversage Charter Petition, District staff recommends that the petition be denied. It is certainly not for lack of passion from the petitioners and all the Riversage Charter supporters who advocated at the November 2nd meeting. The district recognizes and respects their dedication and efforts to create a new option within the district that they feel will benefit their students and the community. However, based on the information presented, staff has serious legal and operational concerns about the school's ability to run a safe, diverse, fiscally sound, and legally compliant public school. All concerns and analyses can be found in the full staff report. 

A few major concerns are site readiness, financial stability, district-wide financial implications, academic compliance with state requirements, special education services, and achieving a similar demographic to the current TTUSD population. 

The proposed location, 12640 Union Mills Road, is currently inadequate to house a program serving up to 165 students and is only permitted for 40 students, or 44, under a Town of Truckee temporary use permit. According to the Town of Truckee, there are significant issues with placing additional students at the site, and to do so would require permitting, construction and renovation for five modular classrooms, widening the existing paved entrance, and addressing the water system capacity and septic tank requirements to name a few. TTUSD conservatively estimates these costs to be extremely significant. Riversage Charter is not the owner of the land or buildings and would be leasing from the Friends of Tahoe Truckee Waldorf, a local non-profit. This creates a lack of control and uncertainty throughout the permitting and construction process and adds an additional layer of concerns around confirmed funding to achieve these goals in the necessary time frame. 

From a financial perspective, approval of the charter would result in a deficit for the District of $1.6 million during its first year of operations and $2 million in the subsequent two years. To address this deficit, the district would have to make budgetary reductions across the board, including reducing teachers and support staff, resulting in larger class sizes and a reduction of discretionary funding for school sites. 

Staff also found that the petition did not provide a reasonably comprehensive description of the school's educational programs and how they would comply with state-mandated requirements. These include a lack of information on how they would accommodate and support English language learners, special education students, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Staff found that the current staffing models and budget outlined in the petition could not feasibly support students with disabilities should Riversage truly enroll a student population similar to the entire TTUSD district. The petition also failed to provide a comprehensive plan for the curriculum and teaching methods that would enable students to meet state standards, with no mention of CA Department of Education-approved instructional materials or curricula.   

And in terms of achieving a similar demographic to the TTUSD region, staff did not feel there was adequate information on the school’s plan to achieve and support a balanced representation of the district population. Resources that could attract diversity were not prioritized, including transportation, extended hours, interpreters, free child care at school events, special programs for students with disabilities or diverse needs, or lottery preferences for diverse students. The current petition gives preference to current students attending Wild River private school, children of staff, and siblings, which would serve to perpetuate the disparity of diversity. 

As mentioned earlier, we are appreciative of the hard work and effort that went into the creation of this charter school petition and the passion and dedication behind it. We recognize that all parties involved are acting with positive intent and are doing what they believe is best for the children of our community. However, as a public school district, it is our duty to diligently and critically review the information presented and highlight any concerns we have. This is done to ensure a positive and enriching experience for all of the students we serve daily.