Overpopulation: Myth or Fact?

Students are always griping about our school being overpopulated and way too crowded, but where does this stem from?

This building is projected to hold about 2,000 students full time. Currently around 1,750 students are enrolled and we are gaining more by the week. During the week of September 26-30 we enrolled four new students according to our counseling secretary, Robin Knutson. As we approach 2,000 students, our hallways seemingly get more and more crowded. The Director of Human Resources, Eric DeJong, has a different perspective.

There might be super crowded halls, but some classes such as the Advanced Placement Literature class only have 7 people. DeJong said that the staffing of the building is dependent on the population of the school and that most of the classrooms are at or near the average size of 32-34 students per class, so where does the ‘overcrowding’ come from?

“We have different things we consider when we staff a school building,” DeJong said. “We look at how many students we are projecting. […] we take the number of kids and we divide it by a number and that gives us how much staff we need for the high school.” 

The process DeJong explained is calculating FTE, or full-time equivalent students (not including running start students or sno-isle). Then, it is left to the high school to figure out how to best use the staff allocated.

An issue at play is that there are a lot of students that come in for 1-2 periods a day, and then go to an offsite school. None of these students are taken into consideration and it makes for crowded areas of the building.

Even though it seems crowded, there are still empty classrooms. Some may think that empty classrooms are a cause of our teachers not getting paid enough to work here and thus cannot find enough staff to fit this growing population. However, DeJong said that Washington state gets paid pretty well and “it’s pretty competitive in Arlington with other districts around us, we are typically probably in the top 10 in the state”. As evidenced, Arlington seems to be paying fairly well in comparison to the competition around us and pay isn’t necessarily the biggest issue.

Sometimes it is nice to have empty classrooms. If teachers are needing to space out groups for group activities, they can use the empty classes. There are also classrooms with more than one teacher, and one of those classes can split into two and go in an empty one. 

The real issue isn’t how our teachers are getting paid, or an overpopulation of students even if that is how students see it.

“Be nice to each other. Stay on the right side if you’re walking through the halls.” Dejong said. “Most high schools probably feel about the same, in terms of being crowded. Which is much less than what it was at the old high school. […] Things are definitely not bad here compared to what they have been in the past in some places.”