So many questions, so few answers at Portola 7-11 meeting
After an exhausting three hours of information sharing and input from the 7-11 committee and the community, it seemed there were many options that had not yet been explored. And with a deadline of March being imposed by Plumas Unified School District (PUSD), there were more questions and ideas that needed to be expressed and answered.
Portola’s all volunteer 7-11 committee met Feb. 9 at Portola High School’s cafeteria to share recommendations and receive input from the public. The meeting was called to order and approval of the minutes of Feb. 1 was passed.
There was a review of recommendations expressed by Klytia Dutton. The Facility Advisory Committee (FAC) members spoke about their experiences of meeting for over a year with people from other communities in Plumas County to come up with some ideas of what would be the most cost-effective means of serving the children of PUSD and which plans would be the most advantageous for all concerned.
What they came up with was a three-stage plan with the hopes that each community wouldn’t have to go to the third stage.
The first stage is already in place right now in Portola.
With the closing of Feather River Middle School in 2009-10 and incorporating its students into Portola High School (PHS), this stage has one elementary school and one high school. Jim Beckwourth High School was also consolidated onto the PHS campus.
It was also mentioned that a dependent charter school could also be brought on site at the high school to create more elective classes that would benefit the children.
Stage two would be to combine K – 12 into one campus and the thought was that C. Roy Carmichael would accommodate the students better than Portola High School.
Stage three would be to keep the elementary school in the community and bus the high school students to an outlying area such as Quincy.
Most of the meeting was taken up with information about what is going on in the other parts of the county since Portola has already implemented stage one.
There was some discussion about the school board opening up communication with Sierra-Plumas School District to provide a more cost-effective model for students in the Portola, Beckwourth and Loyalton areas.
Discussion of PUSD’s budget showed clear discrepancies of what it projected to have monetarily and what it actually has. The district has more money than it projected on its spreadsheet of profit and loss.
The budget showed that within three years if the district didn’t do something now, it would be broke.
It was mentioned by one community member that Portola should push the deadline back to be able to come up with more ideas of what could be done rather than having PUSD force the communities to decide without having adequate time to reflect.
Since there was a three-year window, it was suggested that the community have more time. The community asked a lot of questions in order to understand what was being presented but had little time to form or give ideas or alternatives.
PUSD has 10 buildings, some of which need major repairs and structural changes to bring them up to ADA codes. So far this year it has lost 100 students and the amount of students in public school in this county is a little over 1,800.
With the continual drop in enrollment it is necessary to think ahead and consolidate resources.
When asked about possible solutions such as creating a more enticing curriculum where the children would want to leave charter school to come back to PUSD, the response was good but the idea was that this committee was primarily formed to talk about the disposition of the buildings.
There was a discussion about the four pages of ideas created by the Greenville community and that community members had said that if Greenville High School was closed and their children had to be bused, they would pull them out of PUSD and go to independent charter schools and then PUSD would lose all the money it would have gotten for their children.
Portola is lucky right now because it is holding its own but other schools in the district are facing tougher choices. As far as the busing system, it was barely touched on.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months. One thing is for sure: the communities are definitely engaged in this process.
There is a survey that you can obtain and fill out by today, Feb. 15, if you would like to be a part of this process and let your thoughts be known.
Surveys went out with all elementary students Feb. 10, and you can obtain a survey by going to the PUSD website or Graeagle.com.
The next 7-11 meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Portola High School cafeteria at 6 p.m.