Tahoma School District warns year-round school looms if bond fails

MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. -- The Tahoma School District may become the first district in Washington to offer year-round school for elementary school students. School district officials say it's the alternative if a bond measure is not passed in November.

The district says overcrowding schools is the main driver behind the proposal.

One of those overcrowded schools is Lake Wilderness Elementary. Built for 800 children, its enrollment is now over 1,100. The school has had to add 15 portable classrooms.

"It becomes really a challenge when you have so many students in a classroom with so many diverse needs," said principal Laurel Menard.

In November, district taxpayers will say yea or nay on a $195 million measure to improve this school, and build a new 2,400-student high school to relieve district-wide overcrowding. But it's the alternative if the bond fails that has people talking.

"We made a decision that's elementary, K-5 year-round multi-track model," said Mike Maryanski.

The elementary school would be divided into four groups that are staggered -- 45 days in school, then 15 days off, 45 days in, 15 days off. That way, at any one point there is only three of the four groups on campus, and that's how you fit everybody into one school all year long.

One mother we spoke with is for the bond, but not going year 'round.

"Spend my retirement money if I have to for a private school," she said. "I would not put him into a year-round school."

Josh Henkel, who has three children at Lake Wilderness, also hopes the bond passes.

"If I have to cut down on the amount of coffee I have to drink, I don't mind -- it's for them and the future of everybody," he said.

The year-round model would only be for elementary students. For middle and high schoolers, school officials would be looking at the more traditional double track where half the kids go in the morning and half would go in the afternoon.

The bond would add an additional $440 in property taxes per year for the next 20 years to a homeowner with a $300,000 home. If the bond fails, the changes could take effect next school year.