This fall, the Puyallup School District plans to add up to 16 portables to the 216 that already exist. That would make 232 portables district-wide and put Puyallup as the top user of the buildings across the state.
Superintendent Tim Yeomans is not proud of that distinction, but he said that will likely be the reality during the next three years as the second largest school district in Pierce County continues to grapple with rising student enrollment.
“We’re right at the front edge of homes and a significant number of new students to our community,” Yeomans said. “We have huge growth staring us right in the face. It’s not a question that it’s coming. This is coming.”
The district gained 379 students during the 12-month period that ended in October 2013, the most of any district in Pierce County, according to a February student demographics report compiled by consultant Les Kendrick.
Countywide, net gain surpassed 430. By comparison, the Tacoma School District reported a net loss of 194 students during the same period.
“Construction and sale of new homes is improving in Pierce County and in Puyallup,” Kendrick wrote this winter. “Should this trend continue in the near term, enrollment gains in the coming year could be better than expected.”
Puyallup School District Planning Director Brian Devereux said an expected 8,000 new students will enroll in countywide school districts by 2020. He said Puyallup is expecting to get an increase of nearly 2,000, about one-quarter of the share.
Puyallup schools’ public market share of countywide K-12 enrollment is 16.2 percent, according to the demographics report. That is expected to increase slightly to 16.6 percent, Devereux said.
Yeomans added about 1,800 new single-family detached housing units are expected to be occupied during the next three years, according to housing starts data that has been submitted to the school district.
Carson and Edgerton elementary schools and Glacier View Junior High were built following the last voter-approved bond, a $199.5 million measure in 2004, Devereux said.
Bonds failed in 2007, ’09 and ’13. Part of those measures included plans to build an elementary school to alleviate crowding in the west region of South Hill.
Devereux said the district receives notice of new housing starts from the four jurisdictions it serves. They include parts of Fife and Edgewood, all of Puyallup and parts of unincorporated Pierce County.
“This helps us anticipate future growth,” he said.
The school district has demographic maps online to help residents understand the growth in housing starts and the expected rise in enrollment.
Devereux and Yeomans said building capacity is more pressing because each portable only provides half of the space needs. Portables don’t provide additional common areas, such as gyms or cafeterias, Yeomans said.
“By spring of 2016, we will be maxed out with the existing school facilities,” Yeomans said.
Last month, the Puyallup School District Board of Directors chartered the Joint Citizen Facilities Advisory Committee, which consists of 28 community members. The committee will formulate a 12-year plan to look at and assess the district’s facility and capacity needs.
Yeomans said the committee is making an assessment that will not include building a fourth high school. Students will continue to go to either Puyallup, Rogers or Emerald Ridge once they reach 10th grade.
The group will present its findings to the school board next January. A similar report was adopted in January 2011.
To learn more about residential development within the Puyallup School District, visit www.puyallup.k12.wa.us. Click on “About Us” on the homepage and then “Maps and Directions.” From there, click on the link to the facilities planning department district. Those who live in the school district can learn more about residential development and housing starts in an interactive map that utilizes the Geographical Information Systems Database.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.