For more than 25 years, just about every time a school district bond committee came to the Herald's editorial board for a recommendation, year-round schools were bound to come up.
For all of that time, we have been inclined toward wanting to see the idea tried, but only when there was a clear need and undisputed advantage to the change.
Now Pasco School District has appointed a task force to address that very issue.
The driver is startling, although it isn't unique to Pasco: The district has more students than places to put them during a nine-month school term.
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The district currently has room for about 13,000 students, John Morgan, executive director of operations, told Herald reporter Jacques Von Lunen.
More than 15,000 attended classes in Pasco last school year, and the number is expected to rise to 17,500 by 2013.
The district is forced to find some alternative to new buildings. Voters rejected a bond issue in April.
Here's what the Herald said in recommending that bond:
"Pasco is asking for a $59 million bond -- an additional 95 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The money will pay for another elementary school, a new middle school, another early learning center (that's code for an all-kindergarten campus, which frees up room in the other schools) and several renovations.
"Pasco's enrollment is growing faster than the district's bonding capacity, so officials have had to wait to approach voters on these projects.
"Growth in Pasco, however, means there will be no shortage of kids to fill the new schools. It's likely that even if the measure passes, the district still will have to open schools year around or run double shifts.
"The district is to the pinch point, and failure is not an option. For the kids' sake, Pasco Pride needs to prevail."
It did not.
And for a little historical perspective, here's a passage from another Herald editorial, chosen at random from a long list of Pasco school bond editorials. It ran April 23, 1993:
"Year-round schools is a concept that has danced in and out and back again in the nation's schools for decades. Maybe this isn't Pasco's year for it. Maybe that year will never come. It's clear as spilt water, though, that this year or next Pasco schools face huge strains in the classrooms.
There will not be enough space for all the children. If not year-round schools, what? Higher taxes? Pasco is already near its maximum."
It is to the credit of the Pasco School Board and the task force that both have wrestled with this old problem, and no surprise that their partial solution is to propose year-round schools.
It's an option that other districts in the Mid-Columbia may need to consider soon. Pasco is feeling the most strain, but the collision between growing student populations and fiscal constraints isn't unique to any one community.
The approach Pasco is considering -- 60 days in class followed by 20 days off in rotation -- will take some getting used to. Settled schedules in working families will be disrupted, of course.
But the task force suggests that families with more than one child in the same school could be accommodated, and that activities like band could be accomplished.
Traditional holidays would remain in place.
The year-round classes would be for elementary and middle school students, because high schools offer too many electives to make them practical candidates for the change right now.
One other thing that came up over and over again at the Herald during past bond campaigns.
That was the constant reminder that maintenance costs must rise. With a summer to accomplish much of the work, scheduling has been easy.
But with students in the schools all year long, combined with the extra wear and tear on the facilities themselves, costs will be cut but not by as much as might be anticipated.
There is also nothing magic about this solution.
It seems inevitable that no matter what savings are realized, and how much more the current facilities are used, the day will come when Pasco surely has to build more schools.
That means going to the voters for a bond.
Let's hope for the children's sake that the economy of the world has improved by then.