Our Voice: Growing enrollment means big challenges for schools

The old woman who lived in a shoe had it easy compared to Tri-City school districts that started the school year with more kids than ever before.

Figuring out where to put all the additional bodies is a real challenge, especially when schools have no way of knowing what enrollment will be like until all the students arrive.

At least in Pasco and Richland there are new schools being built so the future does not look quite as crowded.

Richland schools marked an additional 442 students on its first day compared to last year, while Pasco saw an additional 549 students on the second day of school compared to last year's second day.

Traditionally, even more students show up after Labor Day, so this week will be the best indication of just where attendance is at.

In Kennewick, the situation is a bit different. School officials there did not release preliminary enrollment figures like their neighbors, and said they would wait until this week when the count would be more exact.

They know already, though, they don't have enough room for all the grade-school and middle-school students, as they have been adding portable classrooms all over the district.

The Kennewick School District is preparing to ask voters to approve an $85- $95 million bond measure next year. The money would pay for five projects -- two new elementary schools, a new middle school and a rebuilding of Westgate Elementary School and Desert Hills Middle School.

Now is the time when decisions are becoming final.

The school district is considering two different locations for the new middle school and three different locations for one of the elementary schools.

There also is a proposal not to rebuild Desert Hills at its current site, but on land near Southridge High School.

If that were to happen, it leaves the question as to what would be done with the current Desert Hills site.

Nothing is final yet, and now is the time for parents, neighbors and other interested residents to get involved and let the school district know your preferences.

School boundaries are bound to be affected by the additional elementary schools, the new middle school and the possible relocation of Desert Hills.

That can be disconcerting for parents when they find out their children might not attend the school they thought they would.

Richland and Pasco school officials are dealing with that sticky topic now. The more parent involvement on the issue, the better.

That goes for Kennewick as well.

It is always best to get public input early. The more support for the bond now, the more likely it will be approved later.