Scientists inspire Pasco school names

Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldDecember 10, 2013 

Pasco's three new schools, designated to be focused on science and technology, will be named after female scientists.

The Pasco School Board selected the names -- Rosalind Franklin, Barbara McClintock and Marie Curie -- during a Tuesday meeting. The decision came on a 3-2 vote, with recently-elected board members Amy Phillips and Steve Christensen voting to name the schools after spacecraft.

Board members discussed the names during a study session before the regular meeting and spoke of advantages and disadvantages of each. The district has named all its other schools after people and some noted the district should stick with that approach.

"They should be consistent," said board President Sherry Lancon.

The schools -- two elementary schools and an early learning center -- are being built as part of a $46.8 million bond approved by voters in February. The first school is under construction in west Pasco and will open in the fall. The other two will open for the 2015-16 school year.

District officials wanted the schools' names to symbolize their connection to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education and asked for recommendations from the public. More than 100 suggested names were sent to the district.

The names of the recommended female scientists have strong ties to science, though two of them have been largely forgotten by history, said planning principal Deidre Holmberg. Rosalind Franklin was a British biophysicist whose work contributed to the study of DNA. Barbara McClintock was an American scientist who worked in genetics.

Chemist and physicist Marie Curie is well known for her work in radioactivity.

Along with the names of the women scientists, a naming committee suggested a set of spacecraft names -- Voyager, Apollo and Hubble -- and a longer list of STEM-related names that board members could pick or choose from that included mathematician Fibonacci and aviator Amelia Earhart.

It was tough to narrow down the names to the recommendations, said committee member Enid Flynn. Committee members at the meeting said they had their personal preferences but Holmberg said the board couldn't go wrong in their choice.

"To me, these are more than just names, they're starting points for learning activities," she said.

Board members expressed a variety of opinions during the study session.

Board member Ryan Brault leaned toward voting for the female scientists as namesakes, but added that spacecraft are more recognizable.

That familiarity and the innovation within the space program led Phillips to say she liked the idea of Voyager, Apollo and Hubble elementary schools but also was struck by the stories of the scientists.

"I feel torn between both (sets)," she said.

Holmberg said she would be happy regardless of the board's selection.

What's important is that having names will allow the school to continue building its identity and brand within the community, she said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402, tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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