The list of possible names for Richland’s newest middle school has been narrowed to four.
Richland school board members discussed the names and the policy used to select them during this week’s school board meeting.
Two of the possible names — physicist Leona Marshall Libby and civil engineer Frank Matthias — represent Hanford history, said Andre Hargunani, the principal of the unnamed middle school.
Libby was the youngest member of the team responsible for building the world’s first nuclear reactor, and supervised the construction of Hanford’s plutonium production reactors.
Matthias, a colonel and member of the Army Corps of Engineers, chose the location for the Hanford nuclear site and directed its construction, as well as housing in the area.
The other two names — Red Mountain and J. Harlen Bretz — are connected to the Missoula floods, which shaped the geology of the region.
Bretz, a geologist, hypothesized floods tore through Eastern Washington at the end of the most recent ice age. The scientific community initially dismissed Bretz, but he continued to argue for his theory until it was accepted more than 40 years later.
Red Mountain was shaped by the same flood. Sediment deposited on the mountain created a unique ecology, Hargunani said.
The board plans to select a name at its Nov. 22 meeting.
The new Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, or STEAM, school is under construction at the intersection of Keene Road and Belmont Boulevard. It’s scheduled to open in August 2017.
It will be the fourth middle school in Richland and was included in a $98 million bond voters approved in 2013.
People offered 102 unique suggestions for names. After receiving input from the community during a forum, a committee narrowed the recommendations.
Hargunani said core team members and people from the community used an online rating system to chose their favorites.
District policy requires schools to be named after geographic characteristics of the school’s location, or after deceased people who achieved local or national stature through achievements in education, arts and science, or because of historical significance in the region.
Board member Brett Amidan raised concerns about the naming policy.
“In the process (of helping to pick a name), I found myself not liking the policy,” Amidan said. “A lot of times it seems we name schools after people who have been extremely exceptional at whatever they did. ... I find when we do that, we’re pointing out the exceptional, who maybe had a lot of luck involved (with their fame).”
Most children aren’t lucky enough to achieve fame, Amidan said. He suggested allowing the name of a person with traits anyone can achieve. He used the example of C.J. Mitchell, a longtime official and Richland community member.
Mitchell performed service-related activities, but had a deep impact on the people with whom he interacted, Amidan said.
“Every kid could strive for that,” he said.
“I would feel real bad (about picking a different name now), because the policy was followed very well, so I don’t want to go behind their back and say, ‘Well I don’t like any of the things you guys have done,’ ” Amidan said.
If the board decided to review the policy for future schools, Amidan would support changing it.
I heard so many good ideas, and so many interesting directions that we could take this if the policy wasn’t in place.
Trisha Snow, member of unnamed school’s core team
Valarie Anderson, a Richland resident, said children would think a school named after a person is lame.
“I think we want these kids to be excited about a STEAM school,” she said. “We want them to be excited about coming away from Enterprise and starting something new.”
Every comment Anderson heard about naming the school after a deceased person was negative, she said.
“The policy was kind of frustrating,” she said. “We can’t come up with a creative name because it’s either not a deceased person or not a landmark.”
Trisha Snow, a member of the school’s core team, said the team did the best it could do with choosing a name, but it was limited by the policy.
“I heard so many good ideas, and so many interesting directions that we could take this if the policy wasn’t in place,” she said. “Since the names were released ... I have been inundated and cornered so many times by parents and students who are unhappy.”
The school board decided to continue with the four names that the team chose, and examine the policy at a later time.