The bell rings for lunch at Sumner High School. As students enter the commons, there’s not enough lunch tables. Some students plop down on the floor to eat, others step outside to eat their lunches.
The school was built in 1954 originally for 1,200 students. With more than 1,900 students enrolled at SHS, school officials have had to get creative when it comes to finding room for 700 kids.
“It works because of the culture here,” said Principal Bill Gaines. “The students do a really nice job dealing with a lack of space.”
While the students are coping well with the space crunch at the high school, district officials are hoping a proposed $145.6 million bond measure will help alleviate overcrowding district wide. The district says $61.3 million of the bond measure would go toward a project to modernize Sumner High.
“Past bonds were band-aid fixes,” Gaines said. “We would like to dedicate the bond funds (in the upcoming bond) to this school and see what we need to do for the next 15 to 20 years.”
Not only are students feeling the lack of space, teachers at the high school don’t have their own classroom. The average class size is 28 to 30 students, with some topping out at 35 students.
“Every classroom during every period is used,” Gaines said. “Teachers don’t have a classroom for their planning period — everybody shares. We have work stations for the teachers to use during their planning, and we’ve taken a couple of computer labs and turned them into at least liveable classrooms.”
School administrators have even gotten creative when it comes to hosting school-wide assemblies.
“The gym doesn’t fit all of the students, so we just end up using the floor,” said Assistant Principal Jeff Baines. “We adjust, the kids adjust. We still try to make it a fun atmosphere.”
According to Gaines, SHS has a higher enrollment than prior to when Bonney Lake High School was built 10 years ago to accommodate overcrowding.
The expansion of Sumner High School is expected to be completed in fall of 2021.
“It’s time for Sumner to get something new,” Baines said.
Ballots were mailed out to voters Jan. 22 for the Feb. 9 election. If the measure passes, the district projects a tax rate hike of about 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value — an increase of about $90 per year for a $200,000 home.