Districts seek legal action against Pierce County

BETHEL SCHOOL DISTRICT —  Five local school districts have filed suit against Pierce County to maintain their state mandated duty to provide all students with adequate and equal educational programs and services.

The Complaint filed Thursday with Pierce County Superior Court sites harm to Bethel, Eatonville, Franklin Pierce, Sumner and Tacoma school districts.

In June, the Pierce County Council approved Ordinance 2016-34s, adopted policies and regulations related to siting schools in the Rural Area as interpreted by the Growth Management Hearings Board under the Growth Management Act.

The regulations prohibit new schools and the expansion of existing schools in the Rural Area if they would primarily support Urban students. Expansion in the Rural Area would be allowed for schools that only serve Rural students or have a Rural dependent educational function that cannot be met in the Urban Area.

The Ordinance infringes on the local control and management of school districts, as it requires a collaborative planning process and gives Pierce County discretion to decide if a school expansion is necessary as well as where one should occur. The Ordinance also seeks to, but does not adequately define, whether a school primarily serves Urban or Rural students.

The County’s actions would interfere with the School Districts’ constitutional and statutory duties to serve students, select school sites and construct schools. For example, Bethel School District already has at least seven schools primarily serving Urban students in the Rural Area.  The new policies and regulations would severely limit Bethel and other school districts’ ability to add capacity in response to student population growth and to add educational programs. Land purchased for a fourth high school in Bethel would also remain undeveloped because of the new restrictions.

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About Bethel SD…

Located in unincorporated south Pierce County, Bethel is the 16th largest and 12th fastest growing school district in the state with an estimated enrollment of over 18,000 students. The district includes 16 elementary schools (K-5), six middle schools (6-8), three comprehensive senior high schools (9-12), an alternative high school (9-12), an elementary online academy, and a school of choice (K-7).

About Eatonville SD…

Eatonville School District’s enrollment is approximately 2,000 and consists of five schools, Eatonville High School (grades 9-12), Eatonville Middle School (grades 6-8), Eatonville Elementary School (K-5), Columbia Crest School (K-6), Weyerhaeuser Elementary School (K-5). Meeting the educational needs of our students are 120 certified staff and 136 classified staff

About Franklin Pierce SD…

Franklin Pierce School District #402 is a public preK-12 school district in unincorporated Pierce County just south of Tacoma, WA. The district includes 7,500 students served by 1,000 professionals from 15 schools — an early learning center (preK), eight elementary schools (K-5), two middle schools (6-8), two comprehensive high schools (9-12), and two alternative school programs (9-12).

About Sumner SD…

Recognized as one of the premier districts in the South Sound, the Sumner School District has a supportive community with great expectations for students. The district has 13 schools, a family support center, a district athletic complex, a performing arts center, public gymnasiums, and a recreation department. We serve nearly 9,000 students from over 5,000 families throughout the community.

About Tacoma PS…

Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) is the third largest district in Washington State serving approximately 30,000 children in preschool through grade 12. The district has 35 elementary schools, nine middle schools, five comprehensive high schools and 14 alternative learning sites. TPS has nearly 5,000 employees and is one of the largest employers in Tacoma.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. sooze98148 says:

    I looked up Proposal 2016-34s on the county website:
    https://councilonline.co.pierce.wa.us/councilonline/proposal/proposal.htm?proposal_num=2016-34s

    Then, I opened the .pdf to learn the pros and cons of the proposal:
    2016-34s Signed Final Ordinance with Exhibits.pdf
    Whereas, whereas, whereas…

    Is there anywhere a citizen can go to learn exactly what the county wants and exactly what the school districts want? What are the pros and cons?

    Just like the meeting last Wednesday at the Mid-County Community Center, unless a citizen has been attending meetings for years, it’s just too “inside baseball.”

    1. It is unfortunate that our “main” (paid) news media, the News Tribune does not adequately explain what is taking place. One suggestion would be to call your county council person’s office. They are paid to explain details to you and send more information.

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