Sixth-graders in three Puyallup elementary schools could get a temporary reprieve from plans to move them to junior high schools in the fall.
The plan, announced a year ago as a temporary measure to relieve overcrowding at elementary schools, has sent sixth-graders from Zeiger Elementary School to Ballou Junior High School.
That happened at the start of the current school year, and district officials say the switch will remain in force because of space limitations at Zeiger.
Initial plans had called for three more elementary schools — Woodland, Shaw Road and Sunrise — to move sixth-graders to junior high campuses this fall.
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But school board members who met in a study session Friday heard from Assistant Superintendent Casey Cox that those moves could be postponed if certain elements come together.
Those elements include the possibility of new state grants to enlarge two overcrowded schools, as well as tweaking some of the planned shifts to minimize how much of the school day sixth-graders spend at a junior high.
Board members are scheduled to discuss possible scenarios again, and potentially hit the pause button on some sixth-grade moves, at their Feb. 1 meeting.
Closure of choice enrollments at some schools caused populations at others to increase.
When they instituted the sixth-grade plan last year, board members pledged to annually review the moves before implementing them. That was the subject of their Friday meeting. Cox gave board members an update on what’s happened since last year.
The district closed overcrowded elementary schools such as Zeiger, Woodland and Carson to optional enrollment of students seeking to come from outside their attendance area — and in some cases, outside the Puyallup School District. As a result, school populations ballooned elsewhere.
The domino effect sent enrollment at Brouillet Elementary School soaring to more than 700, and at Fruitland Elementary School enrollment is approaching 650, Cox said. Maplewood and Meeker elementary schools are at capacity as well, he said.
He offered three options to board members:
▪ Leave plans that have been announced to parents at the affected schools in place.
There’s a possibility we could make it work for a year
Assistant Superintendent Casey Cox
▪ Postpone moves by kids from Woodland, Sunrise and Shaw Road for a year and hope that closing outside enrollments holds school populations steady.
▪ Allow sixth graders at Brouillet to walk to portable classrooms at nearby Stahl Junior High School for classes, but continue to eat lunch, attend assemblies and take classes such as P.E. at Brouillet.
The district would build a paved, lighted and fenced-in pathway for students. That change could happen this fall.
Also under the third option, Fruitland sixth-graders would move to Aylen Junior High School, where most of them are to start junior high in seventh grade. That would not happen until the 2017-18 school year, to give officials time to explain the move and answer questions from parents.
Officials caution that none of the fixes would last forever.
“There’s a possibility we could make it work for a year,” Cox said.
56Number of new classrooms needed in Puyallup, according to the state
A wild card in the works is whether Puyallup will receive any of the new $200 million allocation the Legislature set aside last year to help districts build classrooms to keep kindergarten through third grade class sizes down.
Cox said the money would be welcome, but noted Puyallup is competing against about 90 other districts for it.
State officials did an assessment of Puyallup’s classroom space, and said 56 new classrooms are needed. That’s the equivalent of one large elementary or two smaller ones, Cox said. He said he doesn’t expect the state to fund all 56 classrooms.
But the district hopes to receive enough to add classrooms to Shaw Road and Fruitland. Grant recipients are to be announced March 1, Cox said.
With passage of a $292.5 million bond in November, the district plans to build an elementary school on South Hill, replace three others — Firgrove, Northwood and Sunrise — with bigger buildings and enlarge a fourth, Pope.
It will take several years to collect the bond money and build those projects. Three new schools aren’t scheduled to open until 2019, and projects at the remaining two are scheduled to be completed in 2020.
District officials say it’s going to be a long four years as school population growth continues to escalate.
“We are trying to get to 2020, when the new elementary can open and relieve some of the pressure,” Cox said.