Eight school districts provide primary and secondary education to the majority of Thurston County’s students. These districts range in size from rural Griffin, with a total of 624 students, to the more urban North Thurston Public Schools, which had 15,101 students during the 2021-2022 school year. Enrollment countywide increased 1% between the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years but remains below the enrollment high seen in the 2019-2020 school year.
The majority of students attend school in the Lacey–Olympia–Tumwater area, accounting for approximately 75% of total public school enrollment. The fastest growing school district between 1990 and 2021 was Yelm. Tenino School District is the only district in Thurston County with fewer students in 2020 than it had in 1990.
In addition to the educational opportunities offered by public schools, the State Board of Education provided enrollment counts for 15 board-approved private schools in Thurston County providing instruction to a total of 1,899 students during the 2021-2022 academic year. Enrollment countywide in private schools increased 6.1% between the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years. The 2021-2022 academic year is the first year overall enrollment in private schools has increased since the 2018-2019 academic year.
Most students enrolled in private schools are in elementary and middle school grades. Four private schools serve high school students, with two serving such students exclusively (Northwest Christian High School and Pope John Paul II High School).
Washington state law recognizes the right of parents to educate their children through home-based instruction. Parents must file a declaration of intent to provide home-based instruction with the school district's superintendent, and the school district tracks the number of students receiving such instruction. For the 2020-2021 school year, 2,223 students in Thurston County were provided a home-based education - nearly 50% more than the previous school year. This figure dropped 19.7% in the 2021-2022 school year to a total of 1,786 home-based students.
Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction