School overcrowding: Puyallup's controversial plan to make room

PUYALLUP, Wash. — The Puyallup School Board voted Monday night to move ahead with a plan to put some sixth-graders into junior high schools next fall, to relieve elementary school overcrowding.

"They're going to grow up even faster," said Tara Harper, a parent of a child at Zeiger Elementary, where the first sixth-graders will be affected next fall. "I don’t agree with that."

School officials say desperate times call for desperate measures.

At Zeiger, 830 students are crammed into a building built for 550.

The portable classrooms continue to creep onto the fields and playgrounds, while office space is being converted into classrooms.

"The computer lab was dismantled so we can use that facility," said Brian Fox, with Puyallup School District. "The storage closets are used for small group instruction, and  the principal leaves her office every day so that there can be small group instruction with about 15 kids in her office."

Zeiger will be the first school to move sixth-graders, followed by other schools in later years. Although the kids will be studying at junior high schools, they will still be taught a sixth-grade curriculum.

District officials promise that moving sixth-graders into the same buildings as seventh- through ninth-graders will be only a temporary step — if voters agree to a bond measure for future school construction.