Bothell growing pains are pushing kindergarteners to long school bus rides
The impacts of population growth are visible all around the Puget Sound area: thicker traffic, rising rents. It's also leading to more crowded classrooms, as some families with school kids know.
North of Seattle, Bothell schools in particular are experiencing growing pains. Schools and daycares are nearly filled to the brim.
Bothell's population grew at about the same pace as Seattle's in the last five years, according to U.S. census data. Bothell’s population jumped up by about 11 percent in that time, while Seattle’s grew by 12.5 percent.
In response, the Northshore School District (which represents Bothell and surrounding areas) has put up dozens of portable classrooms and removed kindergarten from some schools to make room for other grades.
That's why parent Jennifer Snyder kept her daughter home from kindergarten last year. The only option was a school across town.
Snyder: "And they told us that the bus ride would be 45 minutes to school and then another 45 minutes home, and as a new kindergartner, new to school, and barely five years old I just could not see her being on the bus that long."
That hour and a half commute would have been for a half-day of school, two and a half hours. Snyder said, thankfully, her daughter got into a new kindergarten class that’s closer for the upcoming year.
Tim Brittell, president of the Northshore teacher's union, said citizens there have paid for new school bonds for the past 50 years, but the money hasn't kept up with the demand for classrooms.
Brittell: "I don't know what we're going to do if this doesn't slow down here pretty soon. We're maxed out. We have several schools in Northshore we cannot put another portable on because we've exceeded what the site can manage in terms of sewage and everything else."
Brittell said Bothell will get some relief once the state starts fully funding public education. He thinks it will be necessary to keep building schools in Bothell and that the community will have to foot a lot of the bill through bonds and levies.
Meanwhile, there’s a high school under construction in north Bothell that's slated to open in fall 2017.
The Northshore School District is working on a plan to balance enrollment across the district starting in 2017. The district said it has been proactively planning for enrollment growth for many years and that a number of changes in 2017 will help the district manage the influx of students.
Seattle Public Schools and Lake Washington School District said they have also experienced an influx of students in recent years.
LWSD, for example, grew from the sixth largest district in the state to the fourth largest just between 2014 and 2016. The district uses 168 portable classrooms as part of a short term plan to accommodate growth.