Kennewick’s two newest schools were officially named by the school board Wednesday night, though the process was particularly drawn out for one of them.
The board voted on three different names in four rounds of voting before eventually deciding 3-2 to choose “Chinook” as the district’s fifth middle school.
The unanimous decision to name the district’s 15th elementary school “Sage Crest,” however, took only minutes. The board heard four suggestions determined by a committee of parents and students.
Chinook and Sage Crest, both under construction in the Southridge area, will open next fall. However, Chinook students will begin the year in what is now Desert Hills Middle School until their building is finished sometime in the late fall or early winter.
More than 650 people suggested names for the middle school in an online survey, while only 240 participated in the elementary name survey. Appointed committees narrowed the suggestions down and made four recommendations for each school.
Chinook, South Hill, Canyon Creek and Summit were the recommendations for the middle school, while Sage Crest, Desert Gem, Desert Ridge and Dixy Lee Ray were put forward for the elementary school.
The identity will be what the students make of it.
Heather Kintzley, vice president of the Kennewick School Board
The middle school name decision divided the board. Ron Mabry wanted South Hill, noting it was most similar to a student preferred name and referring to Thompson Hill, a scenic feature residents in the area fought to preserve from development.
“That hill was fought for just like Bunker Hill was fought for,” he said.
Board members Ben Messinger and Brian Brooks liked Summit, noting it referred to natural features of the area and would lend a “mythos” to the school. President Dawn Adams wanted Chinook for its references to the region’s Chinook winds and the Chinook cherries that grew here. Vice President Heather Kintzley suggested Ridgeline, a name not recommended to the board.
Brooks, Mabry and Kintzley initially voted down Chinook, but after Kintzley changed her vote. She and other board members noted that while a school’s name is important, it’s not what will ultimately define it.
“The identity will be what the students make of it,” Kintzley said.
After the Sage Crest name, Desert Gem and Desert Ridge refer to geographic features, while Dixy Lee Ray refers to the state of Washington’s first female governor.
Messinger was worried that naming the new elementary after a development would potentially engender divisions between students living in and outside the neighborhood, he said. Name committee members told the board that was never a concern and there was little discussion among the board.
Board members also chose mascots for the schools — Wolves for Chinook and Owls for Sage Crest.