PUYALLUP SCHOOLS The Puyallup School District anticipates a housing boom on South Hill during the next six to 10 years, and it’s trying to act now to relieve capacity issues at schools like Carson, Zeiger, Brouillet and Firgrove.
The district expects the region to experience 33 percent growth by the 2017-18 school year, much of it in the west region of South Hill. There are currently 220 portable buildings in the district, and that also concerns Superintendent Tim Yeomans and his staff.
“Over 4,000 students in the district spend all or part of their day in a portable,” Yeomans said. “That is one-fifth of our children in portables at any one time.”
To address those concerns, the district will put a $279.6 million bond package on the February ballot that would encompass multiple projects in five years, help alleviate over-capacity and eliminate 90 portables.
The bond package is a culmination of two years worth of work during which a citizens facility advisory committee and a bond advisory committee picked the most pressing projects to address.
“This is something that we must do,” Yeomans said. “Given the reduced cost of construction and for borrowing and low interest rates, this is the right time. There is a huge community benefit to this as well, because the community uses these spaces.”
Major projects include additions at all three comprehensive high schools to allow for an 1,800-student capacity; school replacements for Firgrove, Sunrise and Pope elementary schools to allow for a 750-student capacity; repair and improvement projects for Northwood, Waller Road and Spinning elementary schools; aging facility repair projects; special education renovations; an Edgemont Junior High track relocation; and bringing all classrooms to equitable district technology standards.
Carson Elementary Principal Kevin Hampton is most excited about the construction proposal of a new elementary school planned for an undeveloped district-owned property on 144th Street near 80th Avenue.
By the 2025-26 school year, the South Hill West region, which includes Carson, is expected to be 885 students over capacity at a total enrollment of 3,835. Projected student enrollment for Carson that year is 953. The current school population is 933, about 183 students over capacity.
“Carson is the fourth-largest school next to the three comprehensive high schools,” Hampton said. “Three lunches throughout the day fill the commons. Yet we still have students eating lunch in classrooms, because we’re beyond capacity in our commons.”
The stage in the school’s gym is full all day, mainly serving music classes, Hampton said. Five portables at the school serve the entire sixth-grade class.
“I think, right now, it has its challenges, but at the same time, we’re doing our best to manage,” Hampton said. “We have a really strong staff of teachers, and we make the best of the situation.”
The new school planned — two-stories and 75,000 square feet — would accommodate 750 students. It would be equipped for all-day kindergarten and preschool.
According to district documents, mid-point of construction would be January 2017, and occupancy would be planned for September 2017.
“The new school will alleviate the big numbers,” Hampton said. “It will allow us to reestablish our boundaries.”
Rudy Fyles, director of facilities for the school district, said re-establishing school boundaries to prepare for a new school in the South Hill West region is definitely part of the strategy to alleviate capacity issues.
Hampton said that will come with its own set of challenges. Those families loyal to Carson may fight the change in boundaries, he said.
“We have a really positive community that loves Carson, but at the same time, something has to happen,” Hampton said. “We have to have that relief.”
The bond package would require a tax increase of about $15 per month for a $200,000 home, a rate increase of 91 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, according to district documents.
Fyles said there is a backlog of projects that need to be completed, and it’s been nine years since voters approved the last bond package passed.
Yeomans said the district is proud of being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. All 2004 bond projects were done on time and within budget, he said.
In recent weeks, a portion of the 2004 bond was refinanced for a combined savings of more than $23 million during the next 13 years.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.