Plumas Charter moving ahead

Plumas Charter School told the Plumas Unified School District in May that PCS will not be able to vacate the rooms it occupies at PUSD’s Pioneer School by the June 2018 deadline previously agreed upon.

PCS is attempting to build and occupy a new Quincy Learning Center building on Kelsey Lane, just north of PUSD’s Quincy High School, when it moves out of its current Pioneer School facility.

Taletha Washburn, PCS director, estimated that it will take a minimum of two years to get the new school built.

Dwight Pierson, PUSD school board member, in a separate interview, said that the PUSD board understands that constructing a new school building is a lengthy and complicated process. He added, “The PUSD board is just waiting for PCS to let us know what their plans are.”

Getting a special use permit from Plumas County is the hurdle that needs to be overcome.

Washburn said that PCS has already performed a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment, a soils study, an archeological study and a wetlands study.

Washburn suspects that PCS may need to do additional soil analyses, a traffic study and, perhaps, additional environmental studies at the Kelsey Lane site.

Washburn is hoping to apply to the U.S. Department of Agriculture by the end of August for a loan to construct the new building. However, she noted, PCS needs to have the special use permit from Plumas County before PCS can apply to the USDA. Washburn noted that getting a special use permit for the Indian Valley Academy Senior High Learning Center in Taylorsville took six months.

Washburn pointed out that the new building on Kelsey Lane, if successfully built, wouldn’t be much larger than the facilities PCS is currently occupying at the Pioneer School site. She observed, “We are not looking to grow.”

The owner of the Pioneer campus, PUSD, has asked PCS to relinquish two rooms at the site in 2017-2018 for PUSD use and PCS has agreed to do so.

Homes for Indian Valley Academy students

Plumas Charter School’s Indian Valley Academy students, previously all located on the Greenville High School campus, will be split up next school year.

Junior high students, grades six through eight, will be going back to the Methodist education building in Greenville where they were housed prior to the move to Greenville High.

Senior high school students will be moving to a site in Taylorsville.

Indian Valley Academy students were at the Greenville High School campus for approximately five years.

Sue Weber, director of Indian Valley Academy, said that the Academy had almost entirely moved out of the facilities it occupied at the Greenville High site.

Weber said it was sad that junior and senior students will no longer be located together on the same campus. She said that teachers and students have grown used to seeing everyone together.

However, she noted that the Academy tries to teach students that they need to be “flexible and adaptable in the 21st century.” Weber said, “We are modeling that with this move.”

Weber noted that the two core reasons why the Academy had to move from the Greenville High campus were rising rents and the necessity of having to conform to Greenville High School’s bell schedule.

Teacher salaries

Aaron Lohn, board member and treasurer,  asked if teacher’s aide positions were being decreased in the school’s new budget.

Washburn said no, but aide positions are often moved around based on where the needs are.

Teacher aides make less than certified teaching staff.

Washburn noted that incoming teachers at PCS are paid about the same as incoming teachers at PUSD. However, she conceded that, on average, PCS teachers are paid approximately $8,000 less than PUSD teachers. The most experienced teachers at PCS are paid approximately $11,000 less than the most experienced teachers at PUSD.

Washburn noted that part of this difference is because PUSD has more teachers who have been teaching there longer.

Washburn explained that teachers at PCS know they are paid less because they have extra help from teacher’s aides.

Homeless students

Washburn testified that there is a lot of help in Plumas County for homeless children, including housing, but that it is difficult to help a homeless child if they or their parents don’t take advantage of those services.

Washburn gave special kudos to Kelly Holland, Plumas County independent living program coordinator, for the help she offers to homeless students.

Washburn said PCS had seven homeless students last school year: one graduated, one is a fifth-year senior, three are still in school and two dropped out of school.

LCAP

Washburn noted that PCS’s local control and accountability plan is 60 pages long.

She said that she would like to improve PCS students’ math and language arts scores by 1 percent during the next school year.

She noted that 30 percent and 41 percent of PCS students met or exceeded math and language arts standards, respectively, last year.

Washburn stressed that test scores are only one measure of success. She said the school’s primary focus is on cultivating a genuine interest and love of learning in each student.

Computer programming

Apple Inc. has a video game-like program to teach students K-12 and older people how to program computers using its programming language Swift. The curriculum is called “Swift Playground” and is part of a larger Apple project called “Everyone Can Code.”

Bill Gimple, former PCS board president, made an impassioned presentation to the board that PCS should teach computer

Bill Gimple, a former PCS board president, takes notes at the PCS board meeting June 27 in Quincy. Photo by Steve Wathen

programming to its high school students.

Gimple argued that the Swift programming language can be learned like any foreign language and, “like any language, the sooner it starts the better it goes.”

He also argued that programming, once learned, is a great vocational skill that can be used to get a job later in life.

Gimple said, “I think computer programming is the most important core curriculum that could be offered at this point in time.”

More information on “Everyone can code” can be found at apple.com/everyone-can-code.

Enrollment

Enrollment at all PCS campuses was 336 at the end of this school year. Washburn pointed out that PCS was nearing capacity in terms of the number of students it can accept in Quincy and Greenville.

Board members needed

Bianca Harrison is sitting in on board meetings to see if she wants to become a school board member. Harrison is the grandmother of a high school student at PCS.

The PCS school board is seeking new board members. In the future, Washburn anticipates that PCS staff members will become non-voting advisors at school board meetings. If that change in corporate bylaws occurs, the role of board members will be become that much more important.

Interested parents and other members of the public can find out more information about becoming a PCS school board member by contacting Washburn at 238-3851, ext. 15, or [email protected].