New elementary school proposed to relieve overcrowding
New elementary school proposed to relieve overcrowding
Posted on 08/13/2015

With overcrowding at record levels last year, Zeiger Elementary Principal Cari Ake opened her office as a classroom for 90 minutes each day to provide students with a place to learn.


The three half-hour classes included nearly a dozen kindergartners, first graders, and second graders in the district’s new Young Scholars program for highly capable children, as well as smaller groups of students identified for extra help in reading, writing, or math.


Students sat on Ake’s office floor or at a small corner table to receive instruction from teachers and support specialists. Educators transported their lesson plans and teaching materials to and from the principal’s office in bins stacked on wheeled carts.


“We converted every possible space in the school for learning, but we still needed more room for these small groups,” Ake said. “While not ideal, students and staff did the best they could in the situation. Because of the overcrowding, we have had to be creative in how programs and services are offered.”


With 830 students enrolled last year, Zeiger Elementary educated nearly 300 more children than the school was built to serve when it opened in 1996.


A school bond that will come before voters in the November 3, 2015 General Election proposes building an elementary school in the southwest region to relieve crowded conditions at Zeiger Elementary and neighboring elementary schools.


The $292.5 million bond also proposes replacing and expanding Firgrove, Northwood, and Sunrise elementary schools, and creating more classroom space and other building improvements to address enrollment growth at Pope Elementary.


The five proposed projects would create additional classroom space for 2,720 elementary students.


The proposed new southwest elementary school would be built large enough to accommodate 44 home rooms, or about six classes at each grade level.


Plans are to locate the school on nearly 17 acres of undeveloped property owned by the district. The site is on 144th Street East just west of 80th Avenue Court East. A water tower visible from most area streets is just east of the property.


The multilevel school would be large enough to accommodate full-day kindergarten, special education preschool classes, and a dedicated science classroom, as well as to address enrollment growth projected to continue for at least the next decade.


Projections call for an additional 1,600 students in the next five years in Puyallup, with 1,050 of them expected to arrive in already overcrowded elementary schools.

With conditions as crowded as they are at schools like Zeiger Elementary, and knowing that a new school takes three years to design and build, the school board has decided to provide some immediate relief to overcrowded buildings starting this fall.


Directors agreed to move sixth graders at the district’s most crowded elementary schools to junior high schools with available space.


The move, which starts this fall with sixth graders from Zeiger Elementary going to Ballou Junior High, is part of a three-year plan to address overcrowding. Six more elementary schools will be affected by the temporary sixth-grade moves over the next two years.


Ake said the move will provide some much-needed relief at Zeiger Elementary, which educates students both inside the building and outside in 13 temporary instructional spaces — detached units commonly referred to as portable classrooms.


The Puyallup School District has among the highest number of temporary instructional spaces in the state with 232 of the units spread across the district campuses. Completion of the five proposed bond projects would reduce the existing demand for 122 elementary school portable classrooms down to 22 of the detached units.


Portable classrooms are not considered a long-term housing solution because they only provide about half of the space necessary to meet educational needs, said Rudy Fyles, chief operations officer.


Students who attend classes in the detached units must still come into the permanent school building to use the gym, library, restrooms, and cafeteria, see the school counselor and nurse, and attend school assemblies.


The temporary instructional spaces are also far more costly to maintain, he said.


The new southwest elementary school would begin design work in January 2016 and start construction in February 2018, with completion set for August 2019.