Pasco School Board hears suggestions for new school names

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldNovember 12, 2013 

Pasco Elementary Update

Construction workers at Pasco Elementary School #13 work Tuesday on the district's new school set to open for the 2014-15 academic year. The building, at Road 52 and Powerline Road, was recently damaged by a recent wind storm but school officials said they didn't expect any delays in the school's opening. School board members are expected to consider names for three new school's in the district during Tuesdeay's regularly scheduled night meeting.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Marie Curie STEM Elementary School?

How about Voyager STEM Elementary School?

Or what about a school named after the prominent Italian mathematician Fibonacci?

Those were three of the names Deidre Holmberg, the planning principal for Pasco's three newest schools, recommended to the Pasco School Board on Tuesday night. The nine names were culled from more than 100 suggestions.

It's not known when the board will decide what to name the schools, only one of which is under construction. Holmberg and a team of educators also are busy working on curriculum for the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, schools, a format that continues to worry current and future board members.

"I have a little bit of a concern of putting all of our eggs in one basket," said board member Bill Leggett, who lost his board seat in last week's general election.

Holmberg assured the board that particular care is going into crafting how the schools will teach students and that though change can be tough, it will be best for students.

"This curriculum will be guaranteed and viable," she said.

The schools, which include two traditional elementary schools and an early learning center, are being paid for with a $46.8 million bond approved by voters in February. The first school will open in August 2014 with the other two in 2015.

An eight-person committee reviewed all name suggestions and provided the recommendations. There was a preference for names that could be connected to science, technology, engineering and math, such as names of scientists or mathematical or scientific concepts.

Holmberg presented the names as a choice of themes, an approach the district has used with its other elementary schools, which are named mostly after literary figures but also some prominent local individuals.

One list used names of female scientists, such as British biophysicist Rosalind Franklin, French physicist and chemist Curie and geneticist Barbara McClintock.

A second list gave spacecraft names, such as the moon lander Apollo, space probe Voyager or space-based telescope Hubble. A final list of "stand alone" names would allow the board to mix and match from the first two lists and added a few others, such as aviator Amelia Earhart, Italian astronomer Galileo and Fibonacci.

Holmberg also introduced her newly hired team of district teachers who will work with her to develop the STEM curriculum. The teachers come from a variety of backgrounds, from math to art to special education. They will have the option to teach at one of the schools but they have not yet been given positions.

"I could not be happier with the people who have signed on to do this work," she told the Herald after the meeting.

Leggett has voiced reservations about automatically designating all three schools as STEM before seeing how well the curriculum works. Amy Phillips, who was elected to the board Nov. 5 to replace appointed member Darrell Toombs Jr., approached Holmberg after the meeting and said she was worried about how the arts would be affected.

Holmberg said she understood the concerns but the school will not ignore the arts or other subjects traditionally seen in elementary schools, and the curriculum will be adaptable and able to change.

"The good thing is we're opening (one school) first to get a year under our belts," she told the board.

Also Tuesday:

w Assistant Superintendent John Morgan said work on the elementary school currently under construction is on track despite being damaged by a wind storm less than two weeks ago.

The damage only affected a small portion of the project, Morgan said. Workers are hoping to have the whole building closed in for the winter.

"It's interesting to note there are already houses going up around this school site," he added.

w Newly appointed board member Scott Lehrman was sworn in and Toombs and Leggett said their goodbyes.

Lehrman replaces Ruben Peralta, who resigned from the board in September for personal reasons. Toombs and Leggett lost their re-election bids to Phillips and Steven Christensen, respectively.

The two outgoing members received plaques commemorating their service. There was a brief reception for them during the meeting.

The two newly elected board members will be sworn in at the Nov. 26 board meeting.

w Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402;; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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