PASCO -- Even if Pasco voters raise their own taxes in April, the two schools built with money from the proposed bond levy won't bring enough relief to the overcrowded district.
The district would remain overcrowded for the 18 months it takes to build the schools, and by the time they're built, the district likely would have gained enough new students to overfill the buildings again.
That means that no matter the bond election result, the district has to also consider other options to create classroom space in one of the state's fastest-growing cities, John Morgan, director of operations for the Pasco School District, on Thursday told the Multi-Track Year-Round Task Force in its first meeting.
The task force will ensure that the district follows community input in its decision, he said.
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The group is made up of about 30 parents, teachers and community representatives to talk about schedules, objectives and procedures.
Its job is to weigh the different short-term options available to relieve overcrowding.
s a community summit in November chose multi-track year-round school as its favorite option, the group's main task is to come up with a recommendation to the school board whether to go to multi-track, year-round and if so, how to do it.
Multi-track year-round school is based on the simple fact that more students can go to school in a building if they're not all in it at the same time.
For example, several of Pasco's elementary schools were built for 500 students but now house around 800.
Instead of all 800 students going to classes on the same days from September to June and then having the building sit empty for more than two months, the students would get split up into four groups.
Under one model used in several places across the country, each group goes to school for 60 school days, then stays home for 20. But their schedules are staggered so that only three groups -- 600 students -- are in the building on any given day.
This continues throughout the full year. No more long summer break -- beyond the 20 days built into the pattern.
Thursday's meeting was just the beginning of an eight-month process. Morgan and Dick Withycombe, a Portland consultant hired by the district, will coordinate the task force.
The group will meet on the fourth Thursday of every month from now until September.
After that, it will make a recommendation to the board on how to solve the overcrowding issue.
Several members of the group asked if the board would really listen to them or if a decision had already been made behind the scenes.
Morgan assured them nothing had been decided yet.
The group could also weigh other options such as running classes in two shifts throughout the day, although the summit in November found this less practical than year-round school, he said.
The school board has asked the task force to address the following issues, Morgan said:
-- Should the district use a multi-track year-round schedule?
-- If yes, how crowded does a school need to be before it switches to the new schedule?
-- Which multi-track model should the district use, considering the 180-day school year needs to be maintained?
-- How can siblings in different schools or grades end up on the same track so families can go on vacation together?
-- How can schools come off the multi-track schedule once enough new buildings are completed?
Members of the task force were mostly concerned about schedules.
Several parents in the group said they had kids spread out across different schools.
Teachers in the crowd wondered if they'd be stretched even thinner under this schedule.
They have their work cut out for them, Morgan said.
"There's no easy answer, no easy solution," he said.
-- Jacques Von Lunen: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org