Tahoma School District dealing with overcrowded classrooms

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by NATALIE SWABY / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on September 6, 2011 at 8:09 AM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 6 at 9:59 AM

MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. - The Tahoma School District is dealing with a dilemma.

Overcrowding is overshadowing the excitement of the first day of school. The district has more than 7,400 students, and that number is expected to climb.

Tahoma Junior High, built in 2001, has enough space for 1,000 students. This school year more than 1,200 eighth and ninth graders have enrolled. Principal Rob Morrow is concerned the junior high will soon be in trouble.

"When we hit 1,288 students, something is going to give," said Morrow. "We are going to need to move some kids out to another facility, or go to a double shift. Something is going to happen."

Parent Kelli Krafsky has three kids attending schools in the district.

"I definitely don't want to see more portable classrooms. I don't like kids having to be in portables. Another option I've heard is school year round. I'm not sure that's the best for some of these kids and families," said Krafsky.

This school year, the Tahoma School District is relying on portable classrooms. At any given time, 25 percent of Tahoma schools' students will be attending classes in portables, according to Kevin Patterson, the district's information officer. Seventy-three portable classrooms are spread out across the district.

Tight spaces are being converted at schools district wide. At Rock Elementary, a small space that used to be used for one-on-one help for students is now a classroom.  The students seeking extra help meet in an alcove that hundreds of students pass by on their way to class.

Converting computer labs into classrooms could be next.  Principal Fritz Gere said his school is so cramped that some students are being turned away.

"You have families that want all their children in one place. Now you have maybe two of their children at Rock Creek, and another child going to another school," said Gere.

A committee of parents and community members are working on ideas to ease overcrowding. Some options that have been mentioned include converting district headquarters into classrooms, setting up online classes for some students, and going to year round school.

The committee will present their best ideas to the school board in October.

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