January 5, 2018 – Nevada City Elementary, Nevada City’s oldest school, is at risk once again. In 2010, hundreds of residents and alumni came together to keep NCE from being torn down for a courthouse expansion or rented for commercial or office uses. As a result of that process, the School Closure Committee voted that the best use for NCE is a school. This became the Nevada City School District’s policy and NCE was leased to Yuba River Charter School. Yuba River Charter in June of this year, is now leaving after six years on the NCE site.
The Nevada City School District appointed an Ad Hoc Committee which has been meeting to help determine its fate. Their charge has been to look at all potential uses which could include residential condominiums, commercial, offices, or a school. Their meetings are conducted in private. A citizen’s group, the Friends of NCE has argued that they be made public. On January 8, 2018 they will be reviewing development proposal behind closed doors.
For more than seven months, the District NCE Committee has conducted three meetings in a leisurely time frame, assured by the School District that Yuba River Charter would not leave for 1 ½ to 2 years. However, the charter school has now notified the District that they would be leaving at the end of June. The District wants to have a new tenant this summer. This miscalculation may make it nearly impossible for a new school tenant to be found or a District school to be reopened because of the lack of needed lead time. Private development proposals may be the only ones that can meet this new, looming deadline.
The School District has now moved up its schedule for formal discussion and determination of the fate of NCE from one and a half or two years to its Board meetings on January 16 and February 13 of 2018.
The Friends of NCE support keeping this historic facility a school, consistent with the 2011 School District policy. It is the responsibility of the District to offer the best educational opportunities to our children and continue to be good custodians for School District properties. There are potential school tenants, a need, and NCE is a natural magnet because of its central downtown location, history, reputation and ambient charm.
Our first suggestion is to lease it to another existing charter school. The Sierra Academy for Expeditionary Learning (SAEL) Charter High School has expressed an interest which we support. It would be a good fit for the neighborhood and the city. Our second choice would be for the District to reopen NCE as a District school, K-2 or K-8. This could be done relatively quickly. Our third choice would be to support the formation of a new charter school to lease NCE. We believe there is a need for a new STEM oriented environmental sciences program school that would attract students. Another option that has been suggested is a sharing of the building by a number of pre-schools.
Finally, meetings on the future of NCE must be conducted in public. The discussion has already gone on far too long in private which has resulted in other charter schools being unaware of this potential great opportunity. This property, so rich in educational history, deserves a proper review for the best possible outcome.