Overcrowding in classrooms, a continuous problem

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Overcrowding at our schools here in Tri-Cities has been an issue for years. As more families move in, schools have trouble keeping up with the high enrollment. KEPR looked at the student-teacher ratio here in our local classrooms and what's being done to help the overcrowding.

Alisha Haggerty and Christine DaCorsi each have second graders. Alisha's daughter is in the Pasco School District and Christine's is in Richland. But what their daughters have in common, is a pretty crowded classroom.

"For Valentine's cards and whatnot, we've had to purchase like a whole box if not a little bit more to fulfill the whole classroom," said Haggerty.

Alisha estimates her daughter is one of 25 students at Maya Angelou. Christine says there are 23 kids in her daughter's class at Jason Lee.

"I think it's a little more than what should be in one classroom. I think that maybe under 20 would be a better number," said DaCorsi.

"I think she gets side tracked a lot," said Haggerty.

But the reality is, Tri-Cities keeps growing. And the effect on schools is concerning to parents.

"I think there's a lot more disruptions in the classroom, or distractions even, that may take away from learning time," said DaCorsi.

KEPR pulled the numbers from the state and found varying student-teacher ratios. Richland has 22 students to every teacher for the school year ending in 2013. It was 19 to one back in 2010. Pasco had the lowest of the three districts. It's been no more than 18 to one in the last five years of data. Kennewick has 20 students to every teacher after a low of 17 in the previous year. The district hovers between 19 and 20 most years. With the highest numbers in town, Richland says minimizing classroom size is a top priority.

"We put a heavy emphasis on meeting individual needs of students, so in order to do that, teachers have to differentiate and individualize - that requires fewer students per teacher in order to make that happen," said Richland Superintendent, Dr. Rick Schulte.

New construction will allow Richland to add 45 classrooms in coming years.

"I think it's great that they're recognizing there is an overcrowding issue. Yes it will affect boundaries. We may not like it. But it is what it is and whatever is gonna make a better learning environment for my children and other people's children," said DaCorsi.

Richland is also adding the classrooms to prepare for all day kindergarten. That's going to be state mandated in a few years.

It's important to note the ratio isn't made up of how many kids are in a class.

The state determines ratio by any staff member with a teaching certificate. It includes librarians, teaching assistants and nurses.