Kent schools sound alarm, say they're overcrowded by nearly 1,500 students

KENT, Wash. -- The Kent School District is the latest to sound the alarm over overcrowded classrooms. The fourth largest district in the state says they are overcrowded by about 1,500 students.

In fact, 17 of Kent's elementary schools have more students than the building capacity.

Neely O’Brien Elementary is one of those. On Tuesday, Q13 News visited a portable classroom with 28 students. There was no elbow room, with kids learning inches from one another.

“We are sitting at 770 (students) so that’s why we have all the portables,” Principal Rosa Thompson said.

Thompson added that crowded classrooms make it harder for teachers to teach and students to learn.

Right now the school has 150 students more than the building capacity.

“The fact that we have to house our kindergarteners in another building because we don’t have the space is an issue for us,” Thompson said.

It makes it harder for her kindergartners to transition into 1st grade.

Other principals are facing similar challenges.

The Kent School District says they are overcrowded by nearly 1,500 students and that they need 100 more classrooms to fix the problem.

The only way that's possible is if voters pass a $252 million bond in November.

“We will have new schools with the same tax rate,” Kent School District spokesperson Chris Loftis said.

Property owners will not have to pay more because the new bond will replace expiring bonds without raising school taxes.

“It’s actually imperative that they get out there and vote,” Loftis said.

With state lawmakers not fully funding public education, school districts are desperately turning to levies and bonds.

For Kent, the bond would mean two brand new elementary schools and 20 new classrooms as well as a number of other upgrades.

“It’s an equity issue, some kids are getting a different education than others,” Loftis said.

But the district knows bonds are hard to pass.

A hard lesson for Bethel Schools when voters rejected their measure to fix the overcrowding issue.

So before voters head to the polls, Loftis had this message.

“Good schools make good communities, make good citizens, which makes a good country,” Loftis said.

If the bond fails, one idea would be to get more portables for schools. But when it comes to Neely-O’Brien, the district says there is no more room for even one more portable.