Public Schools 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 619 students, to the more urban North Thurston Public Schools, which had 14,767 students during the 2020-2021 school year. Enrollment countywide dropped 5.7% between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.
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 districts between 1990 and 2020 were Yelm and Rochester. Tenino School District is the only district in Thurston County with fewer students in 2020 than it had in 1990.
Private Schools In addition to the educational opportunities offered by public schools, 17 State Board of Education-approved private schools in Thurston County provided schooling to a total of 1,790 students during the 2020-2021 academic year. Enrollment countywide in private schools dropped 5.7% between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. The 2020-2021 academic year is the second year in a row overall enrollment in private schools has dropped.
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).
Home-Based Instruction 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.