SEATTLE -- A spike in births several years ago means some King County school districts are facing a flood of additional students in the coming years.
This week in the Lake Washington School District, which encompasses Redmond, Kirkland and Sammamish, the superintendent just announced some sweeping changes to accommodate the expected influx.
Current projections show the district's overall student body swelling from about 24,000 students this year to more than 29,500 in the 2020-2021 school year. They expect the growth to be most significant during the next few years, with about 425 additional students entering the district each year.
"Which is the equivalent of an elementary school almost every year for the next four years," explains Superintendent Dr. Chip Kimball. "It's enormous growth for us that we haven't seen in some time."
To handle the influx of students, the district has just announced it will reconfigure their entire school structure. Beginning in 2012, 9th grade students will move into the high schools, which currently house just 10th through 12th grades.
Sixth grade students will then move into the middle schools to make room for all the kindergartners expected in the elementary schools. Dr. Kimball says the change will configure the district's high schools to match most others in the state, and should be an overall advantage for 9th graders.
"We believe that 9th graders are best served by being in high schools because they're collecting college application credit on their transcripts as being high schoolers. And we think that serves students well, especially because going to college is such a high priority in our school system," said Kimball.
Current high school students think the reconfiguration will be helpful.
"There's a certain feeling about being a 9th grader in junior high and it's sometimes shocking for people to come to high school and realize those grades, and what they do in 9th grade really counts for schools they apply for in the future," says Redmond High School senior Lauren Funaro.
Her classmate Joanna French agrees. "If they're in the ninth grade in high school, then they're going to start working hard earlier."
Space will continue to be an issue as the students grow older. Lake Washington voters will soon be considering a new levy that will request money either for new construction at the high schools, or for portables.
If the levies do not pass, Kimball says the district will have to consider sending students to high school in shifts, and eliminating all day kindergarten.