Planning for Pasco schools is a lot like trying to buy a pair of jeans for a teenage boy. It's hard to keep up with the growth.
Rather than wait for the courts to decide if the state is meeting a constitutional mandate to provide ample funding for basic education, Pasco is talking about new ways to get the most out of its existing resources.
Pasco officials think it unlikely that voters would approve a bond to build more schools, even though the head count already warrants one. So that question isn't even on the table.
But there are some intriguing suggestions floating around. Some that we and others have been discussing for some time.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
For example, how about year-round school? While the notion would be a novel one in this area, it's proved successful in other parts of the country.
The concept of summer vacation dates back to a time when most children were needed to work on the farm during the growing season.
Like most everything else, that has changed. Even though Pasco is still highly ag-dependent, the farm is no longer kid-dependent.
Modern farming relies more on advanced technology and less on many hands and strong backs. A farmer just about needs a degree in computers, accounting and mechanical engineering to run the old homestead these days.
Yet many of our school buildings sit idle during the summer, as well as on nights and weekends.
Year-round school has proved to be a viable solution for finding new classroom space in other communities. By carefully staggering student and teacher schedules, districts can expand their facilities by a third without new construction.
Another benefit of the year-round school is that kids are on track for several weeks then off for a couple weeks, not months. It helps keep information fresh in the students' minds and helps to stave off the "dumber in the summer" effect.
Another solution to the space crunch might be to run double schedules, especially at high schools. One shift could come in the morning/early afternoon and another in the late afternoon/evening.
Some kids are like the lark, and some are like an owl. A split schedule might be accommodating to both types of birds.
Another option that should be expanded is online courses. The state already provides an online option to traditional high school but more could be done with this technology. After all, we are speeding down the information superhighway.
Certainly this option wouldn't work for every student. Some kids need to be in a classroom with a teacher and set routine. Others require the social interaction. But for the right kid, it's a great option.
It's encouraging to see some new thinking about education.
We like that Pasco is thinking beyond the status quo. We also like that it's involving the public early in the process and soliciting ideas from outside the education community.
Some of the proposed solutions would require a leap into the unfamiliar. Having parents involved from the beginning will make it easier to sell them the package deal down the road.