Public meetings to discuss overcrowding in schools

By Andy Muntz | May 08, 2013

The Mukilteo School District has a problem: too many elementary students and not enough classrooms to house them.

The public is invited to a pair of meetings to be held on May 14 and 15 to learn more about possible solutions for the overcrowding issue.

The meetings will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, at Voyager Middle School, 11711 4th Ave. W in Everett, and at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15, at Harbour Pointe Middle School, 5000 Harbour Pointe Blvd. in Mukilteo.

During the past five years, enrollment in Mukilteo’s elementary schools has increased by about 500 students, which is enough to fill a typical elementary school building.

What’s more, according to Superintendent Marci Larsen, forecasts predict that enrollment in elementary schools will increase by another 350 students by 2017.

“We are using every classroom that we have,” Larsen said. “Voters have not approved a bond measure to build additional classrooms since May 2000, so in the past 13 years we have had to accommodate growth by adding portables.

“We have added 17 portables in just the past five years. But that can’t go on indefinitely because adding more students to an existing school puts more strain on core facilities, such as the cafeteria and library, and adding portables also takes away playground space.”

Larsen said the elementary schools in the Mukilteo School District are very large in comparison with elementary schools in other nearby school districts. She said seven of the school district’s 11 elementary schools have more than 600 students.

The Everett School District has only three that large, Edmonds has two, and Marysville has none. The largest of Mukilteo’s elementary schools has more than 800 students, which makes it as large as a middle school.

Recently, the school district announced that it could only offer three classes of all-day, tuition-based kindergarten next year. This year, the school district has five such classes and five years ago it had nine.

“We simply did not have enough classrooms available to offer more sessions,” Larsen said. “That’s a shame because we know that many parents value the option of all-day kindergarten for their children, and the program has been valuable for us as well.”

Another indicator of the growing enrollment problem was an announcement by the school district in March that nine of its elementary schools will not accept enrollment applications for students who live outside of the school district.

The restriction was placed on schools where the projected enrollment for the 2013-14 school year exceeds the capacity of the building.

A concern for the future, Larsen said, is that the state Legislature has already passed laws to provide all-day kindergarten for all students and to reduce the size of first through third grade classrooms.

“That’s a great idea,” she said,” but to accomplish that we estimate that we would need to have 85 additional classrooms in Mukilteo, which is the equivalent of about 3 ½ elementary school buildings.”

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