Until new Puyallup schools open, sixth-grade transfers will continue

Sixth-graders who have made the move to Ballou Junior High school work on math assignments.
Sixth-graders who have made the move to Ballou Junior High school work on math assignments. The Puyallup Herald

Tuesday’s passage of the $292.5 million school bond measure in Puyallup will help alleviate overcrowding in the district’s elementary schools — eventually.

But it won’t immediately halt the transfer of some Puyallup sixth-graders from elementary to junior high schools, district officials say. In fact, those transfers will only increase for a few years.

That’s because the five construction projects authorized by the bond won’t be completed for several years. Three are scheduled for a 2019 opening and two others for 2020.

In February, the Puyallup School Board adopted a plan to relieve elementary overcrowding in the short term.

Sixth-graders from Zeiger Elementary moved to Ballou Junior High at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.

Next fall, plans call for sixth-grade students from three more elementary schools to move to junior highs, which traditionally hold students in grades seven through nine.

Similar moves would transfer sixth-graders from three more elementary schools to junior highs in the fall of 2017.

Board members pledge the moves will be temporary.

“We still want our sixth-graders in elementary schools,” said board member Kathy Yang. “We have done some work to make sure we get the bond sales going as soon as possible and get the construction rolling as soon as possible.”

Superintendent Tim Yeomans said the district was already moving on those preliminary steps the morning after the election, as the ballot count showed a strong majority of voters favoring the bond.

But selling the bonds to raise construction cash takes time, he added, as does acquiring building permits and actually doing the construction.

In the interim, the district continues to grow.

“They are selling 80 new homes a month in our community,” Yeomans said. “Everywhere you go, there are developments of hundreds of homes. We have to respond.”

Board members this week reviewed recent enrollment growth patterns.

“The district is looking at the numbers monthly,” said board President Pat Donovan. “The situation is still fluid.”

Yeomans said the board could modify the plans for sixth-graders even further if more new students keep arriving.

“We just don’t know yet, based on the numbers,” Donovan said. “We will continue the discussion.”

Puyallup’s school bond approval was the first for the district since 2004. The money authorized by more than 69 percent of voters will build a new elementary school on South Hill that’s scheduled to open in 2019. That same year, larger replacement buildings at Firgrove and Northwood elementary schools are also scheduled to open. In 2020, a new, larger Sunrise Elementary and an expanded Pope Elementary will open.

That’s good news for elated Puyallup school communities.

Yeomans said kids were dancing in the halls Wednesday at Firgrove.

“From children to parents to the community, it’s been a super positive day,” he said.

Sixth-graders on deck

Here’s the current schedule of future moves planned for sixth-graders in Puyallup. Officials say plans could change, depending on enrollment changes this year.

Fall 2016: Woodland Elementary sixth-graders to move to Aylen Junior High

Shaw Road and Sunrise elementary sixth-graders to move to Ferucci Junior High

Fall 2017: Edgerton Elementary sixth-graders move to Glacier View Junior High

Mountain View and Northwood elementary sixth-graders move to Edgemont Junior High