Local middle school officials address overcrowding issues

Proposed $15 million bond to renovate, expand Lincoln Middle School



Cameron Grow, Lincoln Middle School principal, says there is a “traveling teacher” who carts his class materials from room-to-room to accommodate for students.

JAKOB THORINGTON, Former Evergreen reporter

Hallways at Lincoln Middle School are so overcrowded that a teacher at the school allows students to spend the first few minutes of class gathering their materials from lockers.

Janet Fulfs, a seventh-grade social studies teacher, said she lets her students to do this to avoid the chaos in the hallways during passing periods at the school.

“It’s crowded and it’s hard for them to get to place-to-place like their locker,” Fulfs said.

Despite this, she said classroom size is not an issue and she is able to maintain a good teaching relationship with her students. The school added more sections for her class so she is able to continue teaching roughly 30 students at a time.

Principal Cameron Grow said the building was made to hold about 550-600 students. There are about 700 students enrolled at the school today and the building was never renovated since it was built in 2005.

“In the classroom, we’re okay,” Fulfs said. “I feel like it could be a safety issue when there’s so many of them in the halls- I just want them to have the space to move and be the middle schoolers they need to be.”

She said some students are often tardy in the mornings or after lunches because they would rather avoid the crowds and hectic hallways, where the most students are transitioning locations at one time.

Eighth-grader Molly Deen said the student population at the school has felt similar since she started attending it in the sixth grade.

Deen said she knows her teachers well and it is easy for her to communicate with them and get help in class if she needs it. The smallest student count in all her classes is about 18 students.

The hallways are filled with “mobs” of students at the beginning of school as they chat with one another waiting for their first class, she said.

“After a few minutes, everyone is in their classes and it’s easier to get to your class,” Deen said.

He said one of his theories for why the school has more students than anticipated is because of the emergence of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. As new people move into the community, more kids show up in the city’s schools.

“It could just be because Pullman is getting bigger,” he said. “More people are moving to Pullman.”

The school added a third lunch period to a commons area that can hold roughly 250 students, Grow said. The school also implemented separate dismissal bells that dismiss a portion of the total student body at the end of the day.

Deen said the strategies the school uses to lessen havoc in the hallways are effective in keeping the hallways clear during the day.

“I think it works pretty well,” Deen said. “It could get to too much but not yet.”

Molly Deen, eighth grader at Lincoln Middle School, says school officials have employed effective strategies to decrease the havoc and keep hallways clear. The hallways are filled with “mobs” of students in the morning.

Grow said there are no empty classrooms and one teacher does not even have a classroom. This “traveling teacher” carts his materials from room to room to accommodate for the abundance of students at the school.

The school has the correct number of staff for its students so they are still able to teach classes, but would benefit from more space, he said.

“It comes down to student learning and having opportunities for space,” Grow said. “We currently don’t have enough science labs for all our kids.

Shannon Focht, Pullman Public Schools communications coordinator, said the crowded hallways may heighten anxiety in some students.

“Kids linger in here longer than usual sometimes after the bell has rung,” Fulfs said. 

The school district will have three items on the ballot during the election season in February. One of them is a $15 million bond to renovate and expand the middle school.

Grow said the expansion would include a larger commons area seating around 400 students to revert to a two-lunch schedule and up to eight new classrooms, including a few science labs. The expansion would be able to accommodate around 850 students.

Pullman resident Cheryl Oliver, whose child is enrolled at Lincoln, said she is involved with parent activities at the school. She said her child has never had any issues with overcrowding at the school but realizes the importance to invest in schools.

“It’s important to support opportunities for our schools to grow so our teachers and students can strive,” Oliver said.