Tag Archives: Commencement Bay Elementary

Parents at Charter School Cry Foul as Students Eat Inside Doubled-Up Classrooms

by Ari Robin McKenna


When students at Puget Sound Elementary (PSE) in Tukwila returned to in-person learning at the end of August, the neighborhood surrounding the office-building-turned-elementary-school had one of the highest positive COVID-19 case rates in King County — according to the County’s COVID-19 dashboard at the time. Meanwhile, parents say in-person learning at almost every grade level was over-enrolled, especially 2nd and 3rd grades, which had class sizes of 37, 37, and 39 and 36, 38, and 37, respectively. According to concerned parents who spoke to the Emerald, because this school lacked a cafeteria, because the school’s stated educational model involved having two adults per classroom, and perhaps because of a loose interpretation of State guidance, in at least a couple of cases, for over a month, 40 people gathered their lunches, unmasked, and ate together inside classrooms.

Serving mostly students of color — many from immigrant and refugee households — PSE is one of a fast-growing group of charter schools setting up in southwest King County and Tacoma called Impact Public Schools (IPS). The first of four charter schools stamped for approval by the Washington State Charter School Commission in 2017, PSE was joined in 2019 by Salish Sea Elementary, in Seattle’s Othello neighborhood, and in 2020 by Commencement Bay Elementary in Tacoma. Next school year an already approved Black River Elementary will be opening in Renton. This growing portfolio of non-profit schools is presided over by CEO Jen Wickens, co-founder of IPS.

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