Tri-City school districts have added enough students this year to fill two elementary schools.
Between Pasco, Richland and Kennewick school districts, about 1,100 more students are going to school.
Richland outpaced its neighbors in growth, adding 398 more students across all of its schools.
The growth is split between the elementary and high schools. Sacajawea, Tapteal, White Bluffs elementaries and Hanford High saw the most growth.
The elementary schools are averaging almost 23 students per class, a slight increase from last year, Richland officials said.
It’s still below the high of almost 26 students per class.
State officials have emphasized lowering the size of K-3 classrooms to 17 students, but the late date of the state budget’s approval meant the district wasn’t able to take advantage of it, Superintendent Rick Schulte said in a report to the school board.
“Overall, enrollment is strong and in line with budgeted numbers,” he said. “Class size is very good compared to recent averages and class size will decrease as space is available and state funding allows.”
Kennewick also continued growing, adding 380 students to its programs.
Much of the district’s growth as split between the elementary and middle schools.
“We are experiencing growth at all levels,” said Robyn Chastain, Kennewick’s director of communications. “Class sizes vary across the district, depending on the number of classrooms and portable classrooms available.”
The district did see more than average growth at the middle school and high school levels.
Chinook Middle School stood out by adding 101 students, bringing its enrollment to about 900 students.
Much of the growth in the city traditionally comes in the western and southern sections of the city.
Pasco, for the first time in several years, was the slowest growing school district, adding about 250 students.
The district has added an average of 521 students a year since 2006.
Even with the slower growth, it broke past 18,000 students for the first time this year.
Most of the growth is coming at the high school level, where Chiawana and Pasco added students.
What has normally been the fastest growing area — elementary schools — showed a decline with the new school year.
Pasco was prepared for the growth. They shifted portable classrooms to Chiawana High School last year and didn’t need to purchase more for the new year.
The slower growth matches predictions made by MGT Consulting.