Shifting sixth-graders from three Puyallup elementary schools to junior highs can wait one more year, the Puyallup School Board decided Monday.
A plan formed a year ago to temporarily relieve growth pressure at several schools has already shifted sixth-graders from crowded Zeiger Elementary to Ballou Junior High.
Original plans had called for sixth-grade students at three more elementary schools — Woodland, Sunrise and Shaw Road — to make the move to other junior highs this fall. But on Monday, the board agreed to postpone those moves until the fall of 2017, while continuing the Zieger-to-Ballou shift.
While district officials hope to hold enrollment steady for one more year at Woodland, Sunrise and Shaw Road, they are looking to make changes sooner at Brouillet Elementary, where enrollment has risen to more than 700.
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A new plan would give Brouillet some breathing room by building a lighted pathway between it and nearby Stahl Junior High. Brouillet sixth-graders could walk to portable classrooms on the junior high campus, but continue to eat lunch, attend assemblies and take classes such as P.E. at Brouillet. That change could happen this fall.
The reality is that pressure is not going away
Superintendent Tim Yeomans, on growth in Puyallup schools
With enrollment also growing at Fruitland Elementary, the school board agreed to discuss a possible move for Fruitland sixth-graders to Aylen Junior High in fall 2017.
Superintendent Tim Yeomans said board members and parents need to keep in mind that enrollment growth is projected to continue.
“The reality is that pressure is not going away,” he said. “That pressure is continuing.”
While Puyallup School District voters approved a $292.5 million bond in November, new construction won’t be completed for several years. Schools built with those bond dollars will open in 2019 and 2020.
In addition, Puyallup has applied for nearly $18 million in special state construction grants aimed at providing space so that school districts can lower class sizes in kindergarten through third grade (K-3). The school district would need to add nearly $14 million in local dollars.
A state inventory of needs in Puyallup determined 56 new classrooms are needed to accommodate smaller K-3 class sizes.
While Puyallup officials don’t expect to receive grants for all that space, they are hoping to get at least some of them. Without the grants, district Chief Operations Officer Rudy Fyles said, the district would be able to fund only a Shaw Road addition, at a cost of nearly $9 million, with local dollars from its general fund. The project would not use money from the 2015 bond measure.
The influx of students is going to continue
Puyallup School Board member Chris Ihrig
Monday’s board decision to postpone some sixth-grade moves should be good news for parents like Tammie Carson. She spoke to the board about the original plan that would have shifted her fifth-grade son from Woodland to Aylen Junior High this fall. Although he is an excellent student, she said, socially and emotionally he’s not ready for junior high.
Sixth-graders typically do a lot of growing up in their final year of elementary school, she said.
“It’s critical that they do it in a comfortable environment where they feel secure,” she added.
While Carson’s son won’t need to move in the fall, students who come after him could be asked to make the shift.
“The key word is postponed,” said board member Chris Ihrig. “It is year-by-year. The influx of students is going to continue.”