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Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Vol. 32, No. 15
Page A1, column 4

Number of students continues to drop

Are coho salmon and spotted owl the same?

By Liz Bowen

Assistant Editor

SISKIYOU COUNTY – The number of students attending county schools continues to drop.

Schools receive state funding for each student that attends each day; this is called Average Daily Attendance or ADA.

Barbara Dillmann, superintendent of Siskiyou County Schools, reports the county ADA in the 2003-2004 year is 6,190.

Just five years ago, in the 1998-1999 school year, there were 7,317 students.

The last four years has seen a drop of 200 to 300 students per year countywide.

Dillmann admits that "limited job opportunities for families" is the biggest cause for the continued drop of ADA.

"Our biggest industry was timber," said Dillmann and it was hit by the spotted owl listing to the federal Endangered Species Act in 1990.

County and community leaders fear the same economic hit will come through the federal and now state listing of the coho salmon.

Water for fish may trump state law water right allotments of water use by agriculturists.

If that happens, farmers and ranchers will not be able to stay in business. Siskiyou County is known for its mountain-grown alfalfa hay. The farmers are able to cut three crops each summer, between freezing weather in the spring and fall.

Frank Tallerico was Siskiyou County Superintendent of Schools from 1985 to 1995 and recalls the demise of the local timber economy. The schools were in growth mode throughout the 1980s, he said.

In Etna, both the elementary and high schools were finding it difficult to build enough buildings to house the student growth. Ray Cameron, Etna Elementary School superintendent and principal, was constantly looking for ways to expand and purchased several pieces of property for the student growth reasons.

But in 1986, Tallerico said he first heard of the spotted owl.

At that time, it was thought by biologists of agencies and environmental organizations that one thousand acres were needed for each nesting pair of owls. This was the beginning to huge set-asides of tracks of trees. No harvesting was allowed, where spotted owls were found.

By 1987, the local Klamath Forest Alliance, led by Felice Pace, had figured out how to use lawsuits to stop timber harvests, especially on the Klamath National Forest lands.

But sawmills were still up and running in the late 1980s. There is a direct comparison between active mills and ADA in schools. Mount Shasta, Yreka and McCloud all had sawmills that employed a significant amount of men and women.

"Yreka High School had over 1,200 students," recalls Tallerico, adding that Mount Shasta elementary enrolled over 1,000 and McCloud High School numbered 125 students. Today McCloud High School has 24 students.

But a federal judge sealed the fate of the local economies, when he put a hold on timber sales in the National Forests until spotted owl surveys were completed. During the past decade, sawmills have closed. Timber workers have had to relocate or move into a different business.

Tallerico has watched the population change from young families raising children to a population of retirees, who come here to enjoy the weather and the quality of life Siskiyou County has to offer.

Maybe Etna Elementary School reflects the economic-loss-equals-student-loss the most. Just seven years ago the school showed 425 in ADA. In 2004, it is down to 196. There have been no sawmills in Etna for nearly 40 years.

The domino affect has hit the schools. Teachers have been laid off or taken retirements. Other businesses have closed.

The coho salmon issue may parallel the spotted owl fiasco and where county schools will end up, is anyone’s guess.

To contact Assistant Editor Liz Bowen, call 530-467-3515.


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