Pasco school bond: An inside look at student overcrowding

<p>McLoughlin Middle School</p>

McLoughlin Middle School

We're less than a week away from next Tuesday's special election, and several school districts across our region are hoping residents will approve bonds to build and renovate schools.

Educators and students in the Pasco School District say many schools are overcrowded with students.

The district is hoping to stop that with a $46.8 million bond that would pay for three new elementary schools.

Educators say if the bond doesn't pass, fitting more students at their schools will be a challenge.

Lunch time for middle school students is usually a time to relax, get some food and hang out with friends.

But at McLoughlin Middle School, it's a rush to get a meal and find a seat if you're lucky.

"When you don't have enough seats and enough room for that many kids, it does become an issue" said Jordan Breier, 8th grade student.

The school is overcrowded with 6th to 8th grade students, so each grade goes to lunch at a different time.

But the cafeteria is still jam packed every day, making it hard to even walk around.

"We have about 1,600 students at McLoughlin, the building was built for about 1,000 students" said John Wallwork, school principal.

The school has one gym, and because there are so many students, three PE classes were being held there at once today.

And when it's cold outside, it gets worse - with as many as seven classes going on in the small space.

"It can get crowded. Multiple classes, teachers trying to teach over each other, give directions, lots of students in a small amount of space" said Wallwork.

Class sizes are growing and many are over capacity.

Teachers are doing their best to give every student personalized help, "but it does become a challenge when you have 30, 31, 32 kids in each class to get around to every kid in the classroom" said Breier.

The school has tried to deal with the growth by adding portables.

They added four last year and four this year for a total of 30.

But educators say this can't be a permanent solution, as the new classes are taking up space on the playground.

"The last four portables that went in last summer, it crept into our softball field" said Wallwork.

Students say it could be worse, but they don't want to wait to see that happen.

They say they need more space if they want to continue to get a quality education.

"If you were put in this situation, you would probably want that to happen as well" said Breier.

If the bond passes, 6th graders would stay in elementary schools - that would alleviate overcrowding issues at middle schools.

The $46.8 million bond would cost Pasco residents $34 a year for a $100,000 property.

If the bond doesn't pass, the Pasco School Board may look at implementing multi-track, year-round schooling to ease overcrowding.