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VENICE BUHAIN; The Olympian |
There are nearly 30,000 students who live in and around Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater and attend school in one of Thurston County’s three largest public school districts.
Seven smaller public school districts can be found outside South Sound’s urban core, where almost 18,000 more students reside. There also are many private schools to choose from, both religious and nonreligious.
North Thurston Public Schools will have a new superintendent in the fall, after longtime superintendent Jim Koval retires in July. Raj Manhas, a former superintendent of the Seattle School District, was chosen after an extensive search that involved several public meetings. The district is the largest and most ethnically diverse in Thurston County, with about 14,000 students. It also is growing fast — the district expects its enrollment to grow to 20,000 in the next 15 years.
The district also will open the doors to two new schools in the fall. Aspire Middle School for the Performing Arts is a new magnet school for grades six to eight for students with an interest in the performing arts or for students in the district’s Challenge Academy, which provides a more academically advanced program at the middle school level.
Chambers Prairie Elementary School also will open in the fall and serve the south Lacey area, which has grown quickly in the past few years.
North Thurston covers 74 square miles in northeastern Thurston County and has three comprehensive high schools, one alternative high school, three traditional middle schools, a magnet middle school and 13 elementary schools. The district began to run the Wa He Lut Indian School through a contract last year. The district’s 2008-09 budget totaled about $121 million.
In the fall and winter, the district will be gearing up for a maintenance and operations levy election, which traditionally has been on the February ballot. In May 2008, voters passed a $48.9 million, two-year maintenance and operations levy, after it had failed in February. The levy pays for everything from teacher salaries to elective programs to transportation.
Olympia School District is the second-largest district in the area, serving 9,400 students. It had an approved operating budget of $86 million for the 2008-09 school year.
The district has 11 neighborhood elementary schools and four middle schools. Capital and Olympia high schools, the two comprehensive high schools, are crosstown rivals.
The district has alternative programs in elementary, middle and high schools. Lincoln Options is the alternative program at Lincoln Elementary School. Reeves and Marshall middle schools also house the alternative programs for sixth through eighth grades. Parents are heavily involved in the elementary and middle alternative programs. The district also has an alternative high school, Avanti High School.
The district’s school board has a seat for a high school student, who may participate in discussions but cannot have a binding vote.
The representative’s term spans the school year, and recently the rules were changed to rotate the high school the member attends.
The district puts a student as a member on its board. The board seeks student perspectives from the student board member, but the student member’s vote is not official. The student board member seat rotates among the high schools.
This past school year, the student board member was David Hoekje of Avanti High School. This year, Capital High School will choose the student.
The Tumwater School District is the third-largest school district and has about 6,300 students. The district’s 2007-08 budget totaled about $62 million.
Tumwater operates two comprehensive high schools, an alternative program for grades seven through 12, two middle schools, and six elementary schools.
Tumwater also runs New Market Skills Center, a training program for students that attempts to meet the demands for skilled employees by regional industries. New Market has students from all of the districts in Thurston County and from districts outside the county who attend the training programs.
New Market is a public high school, so its programs are free to attend. Students can learn trades as diverse as banking, culinary arts and veterinary science. Members of the public can use the school’s cafeteria and a branch of Washington State Employees Credit Union that is inside the school.
OTHER PUBLIC DISTRICTS
Griffin School District, northwest of Olympia, serves about 640 students. The district, which operates one K-8 school, contracts with the Olympia School District to send its high school students to Capital High School.
Rainier School District, southeast of Lacey, serves about 940 students. The district operates an elementary school, a middle school and a high school.
Rochester School District, southwest of Tumwater, serves almost 2,300 students. The district operates a primary school for grades kindergarten through two, an elementary school for grades three through five, a middle school, a high school, an alternative school and Maple Lane School, a school for students in the state juvenile system.
Steilacoom Historical School District, northeast of Lacey, serves 5,400 students and operates five elementary schools, a middle school, a high school and a K-8 virtual academy that is open to students throughout the state.
Tenino School District, south of Tumwater, serves about 1,300 students. The district operates two elementary schools — one for grades kindergarten through two and one for grades three through five — one middle school and one high school.
Yelm Community Schools is a fast-growing district bordering Fort Lewis southeast of Lacey. It serves about 5,600 students who attend six elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school.
Shelton School District serves 4,300 students in Mason County. It has three elementary schools, a middle school, a junior high school, a high school and alternative programs.
Thurston County’s many private schools include:
• Capital Montessori School
• Christian Life School
• Community Christian Academy
• Cornerstone Christian School
• Evergreen Christian School
• Faith Lutheran School
• Holy Family School
• Northwest Christian High School
• NOVA School
• Olympia Community School
• Olympia Waldorf School
• St. Michael School
• Temple Baptist Academy
Diane Huber contributed to this report.