We like to think about Puyallup as a small town, right up until the time that we’re stuck in traffic on Meridian, on 94th, or on Shaw Road. We also like to think about our school district as being small, though that’s also something that we’re more likely to see in our rear view mirror, and not looking forward. Before we can talk about where our district can go next, we have to have an understanding of who we are.
The Puyallup School District is the 8th largest district in the state. At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year we had an enrollment of 22,488 students. That’s more students than are enrolled in the Vancouver, Federal Way, Everett, Bellevue, or Issaquah school districts. Enrollment this school year did dip from last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but districts across the state all saw similar temporary decreases. We’ve seen enrollment start to rebound as this school year has progressed. From the beginning of 2010 through the beginning of 2020, our enrollment increased by 12.4%. District projections suggest that we could see increases of 8% per year for the next three years. Even with numbers depressed by the pandemic, we’re looking at our already large district getting even larger.
Our enrollment growth hasn’t been equal across all student populations. The Puyallup School District has grown much more diverse in recent years. Students who identify as Asian and students who identify as being Two or More Races grew by about a third over the decade. Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino populations by grew by two-thirds during the same period. Enrollment of Black/African American students increased 40%. Current trends indicate that we will soon be a majority minority district.
We’ve also seen significant changes in the number of students in particular categories. Our low-income student population, as measured by students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, increased by 33% from 2010 to 2020 and now comprise nearly 39% of all enrolled students. The number of students who are English language learners has more than doubled from 632 students in 2010 to 1,376 in 2020. Combine our enrollment growth with the additional need for services that fit the changing demographics of our district and it’s obvious why we’ve needed to change which services are provided to our students, the way those educational services are provided, and why we need to continue to make changes to ensure that the needs of each of our students is met.