Tri-City school districts work to place kindergartners

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 1, 2012 

Tri-City school districts are working to absorb an unexpected influx of kindergartners this school year.

More than 100 kindergartners over what was expected have registered for kindergarten in the Kennewick School District. The Richland School District reported having about 75 more kindergartners than planned. Pasco could not provide its kindergarten numbers.

The additional students have prompted the Kennewick and Richland districts to add kindergarten classes at some schools.

Some parents said they were turned away from schools when they went to register their children, but district officials said every student will be in a classroom.

Districts base the number of classes offered on how many students register in the spring, though parents can bring in their children just days before classes start.

Karrlee Clements said she went to register her son for kindergarten at Cascade Elementary School but was told the school already was full and that "my best bet was to start calling the other elementary schools around the area to find my son a place to go to school."

Clements said all the other schools in Kennewick also were full -- some with waiting lists of as many as 18 students.

Lorraine Cooper, spokeswoman for the Kennewick School District, said no students are being turned away, but some who have just registered are being asked to wait until as late as Tuesday for the district to assess the full need.

"I don't blame (the parents). They don't like uncertainty," Cooper said.

Not every kindergartner will be able to attend the school closest to them, but Cooper said the district will work to keep students as close to home as possible and provide transportation.

"This is par for the course every year," she said.

Officials could not say what led to the spike in kindergarten enrollment. Cooper and others said a number of young families could have moved into the area over the summer into recently completed housing.

"One apartment building can really throw the demographics of a neighborhood off," said Pasco School District spokeswoman Leslee Caul.

The incident also highlights the importance of families registering their students early to avoid the stress of having to wait and see where a student will attend, Caul said.

Kindergarten classes already have been added at Kennewick's Cascade, Lincoln and Canyon View elementary schools, with another possibly at Washington Elementary School.

In Richland, spokesman Steve Aagaard said the Richland School District was adding one kindergarten class each at Tapteal and Sacajawea elementary schools.

The Pasco School District had about 80 more students overall, in all grades, on the third day of classes than at the same time last year and there was some overcrowding in some schools, said Caul.

Administrators are meeting daily to determine where there are slots for students but everyone will be accommodated.

"It's just a numbers game right now," she said.

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