As reflected on by our opinion editor, Melissa Siig, on p. 6, Tahoe City is going through some grocery store turbulence.

I first reported on the situation last fall when it was announced that Tahoe City’s Save Mart was being forced to vacate its spot after 50 years of operation, then subsequent news that Safeway was taking over the building.

Below, I circled back with the Safeway powers that be to check on the originally promised summer 2024 opening of the newly remodeled grocery store.

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Then: With the recent Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Ski/Skate Week top of mind, readers have asked about what went into canceling the week-long holiday beginning next school year.

~ AH


The current Safeway, at 850 N. Lake Blvd., is staying open until the new location is ready. Photo by Jared Alden/Moonshine Ink

SAFEWAY’S STATUS

Has demolition begun at the new Safeway (100 W. River Rd. in Tahoe City)? Is the store still expected to open this summer? Additionally, are there any plans for the current Tahoe City Safeway (850 N. Lake Blvd.) building?

The project is progressing. We expect the new store to now open in January 2025. The existing store will stay open and serve the community during the transition. [Regarding plans for the current building], we continue to evaluate our options.

~ Wendy Gutshall, director, public and government affairs, Safeway – Northern California Division


PERFECTING ATTENDANCE

We’ve heard from readers that the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board may have been swayed by the district’s survey to remove Ski/Skate Week from the annual calendars, the results of which may not have been accurate. How much did the survey influence board members’ decision? Were people allowed to vote more than once?

It seems that the TTUSD school-year calendar has always been a contentious topic. Understandably, it dictates family vacations while also creating situations where families have to find and pay for childcare. But ultimately, the purpose of the calendar is to uphold the California mandate that requires all public schools offer 180 days of in-person learning. Each day students are on campus, they receive valuable academic instruction, social and emotional support services, educational and behavioral resources, and nutritional meals that help them thrive both currently and in their lives after high school.

The winter of 2022/23 brought massive amounts of snow and, with it, many snow days and weather impacts. Due to both smoke and snow, students missed 14 days of school — five of which were made up by utilizing built-in weather days. These were initially incorporated, knowing that operating in a mountain community inevitably brings weather impacts. However, last year, there were nine days that could not be made up, and students ultimately missed that instructional time. Last winter was not the first year TTUSD requested a waiver from the state to approve a shorter school year. Since the 2016/17 school year, TTUSD has had to seek a waiver from the state four times to cover 24 missed school days. So, of course, last year was extreme, but it was not an exception.

Attendance is crucial to student success. Widely accepted research shows that when students miss school, they miss instruction, resulting in an increased likelihood of academic struggles, disengagement, and poor post-secondary outcomes. Unfortunately, TTUSD is already struggling with poor attendance and is not meeting state targets, even when weather is not a factor. This is why families have likely noticed newly expanded efforts in this area.

Knowing all of these factors and in alignment with their stated guiding belief that students are the focus of all decisions, the TTUSD Board of Trustees directed staff to investigate building additional weather days into the school year calendar. Trustees supported and encouraged the district to seek community input via survey to make sure we gathered varied perspectives from families, students, and employees to help inform their decision-making process.

SKI/SKATE NO MORE: The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District elected to remove the annual week-long Ski/Skate break from its calendars in an effort to meet state school attendance requirements. In recent years, snow and smoke have led to canceled school days.

The first survey asked about adding additional days to the calendar and preferences regarding adjustments, such as starting school earlier, ending later, reducing breaks, or introducing flex days. There were over 1,700 responses, with 72% being from parents, 11% from students, and 15% from employees. The survey was set up to be anonymous and not require participant email addresses in an effort to allow respondents an unintimidating forum to be honest in their responses. Due to this choice and the limitations of the survey technology, the district did not have an enforcement method guaranteeing participants only take the survey once. However, our assumption was that most community members would be honest and only respond one time.

The TTUSD Calendar Committee, composed of administrators, representatives from employee unions (TTEA and CSEA), and a board member, analyzed the survey findings and incorporated them into two draft calendar options. While survey results were influential, other factors were also taken into account during the development process, such as when finals occur, when teachers feel the best learning for students occurs within the year, and trying to stay aligned with preferred start and end dates.

At the June 7, 2023, board meeting, both calendar options, along with the survey results and community public comments, were presented to the board. In response to all of the feedback received, the board directed staff to conduct a second survey asking for the community’s preference between the two proposed calendars.

The subsequent survey [which had the same level of anonymity as the first one] revealed a divided community, with 53% in favor of reducing three days from the February break and 47% in favor of adding two flex days to the calendar while keeping the February break intact. The division was not surprising as this is consistent with previous surveys the district has conducted over the years. This decision also resonated with the diverse range of feedback gathered from public comments, emails to the district, and survey responses, reflecting a multitude of perspectives. These ranged from concerns about the disruption caused by February break for families employed within our significant tourism and hospitality sectors, to insights into the role vacation days play in maintaining mental well-being, as well as the expressed need for a respite in February for both students and families.

Ultimately, the board chose to go with the option that was voted on by 53% of respondents. The survey did sway their decision because community voice is valued. However, it was certainly not the only factor considered. Due to the clear divide within our community on this topic, no choice was going to be ideal for everyone.

Change can be hard, and we understand that for about half of our community, the loss of a full week of vacation in February will be a difficult adjustment. As a district, we are committed to continually evaluating calendar impacts on our operations, families, and, most importantly, students. However, we have no intention of making significant changes to the approved 2024/25 calendar. Hopefully, the community understands this is a divided topic and that our decisions are always centered around engaging and empowering students to achieve their potential.

~ Amber Burke, TTUSD coordinator of district communications and parent engagement

Author

  • Alex Hoeft

    Alex Hoeft joined Moonshine staff in May 2019, happy to return to the world of journalism after a few years in community outreach. She has both her bachelor's and Master's in journalism, from Brigham Young University and University of Nevada, Reno, respectively. When she's not journalism-ing, she's wrangling her toddler or reading a book — or doing both at the same time.

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