Local school districts tackle overcrowding issues

All local school districts are dealing with rapid growth within their schools, which leads to overcrowding and growing class sizes.

PASCO, Wash. -- Classes started this week and enrollment numbers are coming in. Every year local school districts have faced many challenges due to rapid growth of new students.

"Wow… that’s a lot of students," said Dejah Felton, mother of three.

Felton was surprised to hear that the Pasco School District takes in about 600 new students every year. That’s enough kids to fill a new school. However, she’s no stranger to this rapid growth, her kids have experienced it first hand.

"As my daughter got older, her classes tended to be around 28-30 students per class and she was always talking about new students coming in and they had to go into portables by the time she was in 6th grade,” Felton said.

Officials within the Pasco School District said they are doing their best to help take care of the overcrowding at the schools.

"In a perfect world, we would love to have brick and mortar buildings that would accommodate students keep them all in one building," said Randy Nunamaker, of McLoughlin Middle School. "But as fast as things are growing we haven’t been able to keep up so we put in portable class rooms."

Nunamaker said portable classrooms have been the fix for now, but administrators have also reorganized class schedules, and even moved 6th graders back to elementary schools to help handle the growth.

Nunamaker said even though they always plan for more growth every year, districts are limited to the number and size of schools they can build because it’s all based on the property value in the city and county.

“So whereas we’d like to go out and build five more schools, our debt capacity won’t allow us to do that, " said Nunamaker. "So we do the best we can with the dollars that we have available.”

But educational facilities are not parents only concern.

"I’m more concerned about the teachers not being able to handle it all with that many students in each class and that kids don’t get the individual attention that they need,” Felton said.

The Pasco District Board is considering a bond next year that would build more schools and ease overcrowding and class size. Until then portables are the best fit to fix this.

“That’s part of the reason we see the growth in the portable classrooms, so that we can try to keep down the class sizes as low as possible."

So though Nunamaker and Felton admit portables are not ideal, they agree that its necessary in order to provide kids with the quality education they deserve.

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