The official October student count is in, and Bethel is now proudly home to nearly 21,000 students. That’s almost 500 more students than the same time last year.
Superintendent Tom Seigel said Bethel is in a “housing crisis” due to the rapid growth in our district. He has already ordered five more double portables — one for Bethel Middle School and four for Liberty Middle School— to help make room for our booming student population.
“When Pierce County initially proposed their ‘Centers and Corridors’ plan, the idea was to redirect the next 60,000 people to the Bethel, Franklin Pierce, and Puyallup school districts. We are already seeing incredible growth here in Bethel, with no end in sight,” Seigel said on Twitter.
“I’ve been told the Frederickson Industrial Area will bring 2,000 more jobs this way in the next two years. We’ll be watching to see if this will accelerate growth in our area. Forecasters are already saying we’ll be adding 400 housing units a year for the next 20 years,” he said.
Bethel was already overcrowded when voters approved the school construction bond in February of this year. Work is already underway to get the new schools completed on time. That said, Seigel said all the new schools will open up full.
Elementary #18 (Fall 2021)
At 80,000 square feet, Elementary #18 (located on Waller Road just north of 176th St. E) will be the largest elementary school ever built in the district. Once completed, it will be home to 900 students. That number includes 200 students in portables.
Unfortunately, the state does not allow us to build for future capacity, so portables have been, and will continue to be part of the planning process for new schools.
Plans for the school have already been submitted to the county, and the hope is that the project will be ready to go out for bid in the spring of 2020.
Elementary #18 is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2021.
New Bethel High School (Fall 2023)
If you think Elementary #18 will be big at 80,000 square feet, the new Bethel High School will be more than three times that size! At 250,000 square feet, the new high school will be ready for 1,800 students in classrooms, with initial room in portables for 250 more.
Located near the corner of 224th St. E. and 70th Ave E., the new high school has raised concerns about traffic in the area, especially on 70th. Preliminary planning for the school is currently anticipating the main entrance to the school to be off of 224th, with 70th only being used as emergency access.
Challenger High School Phase I (December 2019)
Our School Board recently toured the construction site of Phase I of the new Challenger High School. Construction of the 8,100 square foot Phase I building is expected to be completed by December of this year. It will include P.E., science and art classrooms, along with a commons area — something Challenger students have never had.
While Phase I is not a bond-funded project, Phase II will be. Phase II will add 32,000 square feet of classroom space, which will allow the 30+ year old portables that Challenger students and staff currently call home to be taken out of service.
A brief history of Bethel’s alternative high school
- 1974 — Challenger classes begin in student homes.
- 1977 — Classes move to a converted school bus.
- 1979 — Classes move to a three-bedroom home in Spanaway.
- 1987 — School moves into 7 portables at its current location.
- 2019 — Challenger’s first permanent building will be completed.
GKHS expansion (Fall 2024)
Graham-Kapowsin High School will get a 33,000 square foot expansion in 2024, adding a wing of classrooms and increasing the square footage of the common areas. Part of expansion will include a full traffic impact analysis, as traffic in the Graham area has been a concern. Parents have been encouraged to have their students ride the bus, or to use specific drop off times in the mornings.
Elementary #19 (Fall 2027)
Preliminary planning is underway and district officials are in the process of negotiating property in the Lipoma Communities. There are enough students in that area that Elementary #19 will mostly be a walking school for that neighborhood. Like Elementary #18, the school will be 80,000 square feet with space for 700 students in the building and 200 in portables.
Nuts and Bolts
Mark Pressing recently reported to the School Board that the promise of $1.42 per $1,000 of assessed value was still being met. The next bond sale is scheduled to take place in the fall of 2020.
The district has also completed the selection process for architectural firms for the 2019 Bond Projects. NAC Architecture and Erickson McGovern Architects have been chosen to provide architectural services for all 2019 Bond Projects. Previously, the administration awarded the new Bethel High School project to NAC Architecture and the Elementary School #18 project to Erickson McGovern Architects.