Rejecting public suggestions that honored a former teacher - as well as dictators, a TV character and a dead gorilla - a school district committee presented three options Tuesday night to the Bend-La Pine School Board for its new elementary school’s name: North Star, Ruth Reid and Florence Drake.
Kevin Gehrig, the principal of the new elementary, and a committee of community members, parents and district officials, received suggestions from Oct. 1-21. Names could be inspired by nearby geographical or historical places, local wildlife, the cultural or historical character of the community or a person who has been dead for at least five years and has historical or educational significance to the area.
Reid and Drake are integral to Bend’s history, Gehrig said. Drake convinced her husband, Alexander, to stop their travels from Minnesota along the Deschutes River and was one of the first pioneer settlers of Bend. She and her husband platted and sold lots to build Bend’s downtown, built one of the city’s first sawmills, a water plant and power system and helped convince the railroads to travel through Bend.
Reid began teaching in the city’s one-room school house in 1904. Eventually, she became Bend’s first principal and founded the city’s first high school. The Reid School building, current home of the Deschutes Historical Museum, was named for Reid in 1914.
North Star was the committee’s top preference, one member noted. The name was selected due to its historical significance for explorers, Native American tribes and sailors as a guiding light. It was also considered fitting because the new elementary will be the most northern school in the district, located at the intersection of O.B. Riley and Cooley roads.
Multiple school board members praised the three names.
“You guys nailed it,” board member Peggy Kinkade told the committee.
“There’s no controversy; they’re all great names,” added fellow board member Stuart Young.
However, the most popular submission was not any of these. According to a list of hundreds of submitted names provided by Bend-La Pine, the most suggested name was Arlie Seems Elementary. Seems taught for over 30 years at Jewell, Buckingham and Kenwood elementary schools in Bend and was a lifelong Bend resident who graduated from Bend High School. He died in 2013 at 62 after a long battle with disease.
Gehrig said, although Seems was a “great teacher,” the committee decided to focus more on historical figures.
“Our challenge was, there were many great educators suggested,” he said. “I think it was really tough for us to say, ‘Gosh, there was just one educator … that rose above.’”
There were many suggestions inspired by famous locals — from Les Schwab to longtime Bulletin owner and publisher Robert Chandler — as well as geographical name submissions that included Mount Bachelor, Deschutes and Broken Top.
There were also humorous names like Schooly McSchoolface Elementary, Harambe’s Elementary, Not Pine Ridge Elementary and The Money Pit, as well as a few submissions named after dictators, such as the Osama Bin Laden Memorial School for the Gifted and Kim Jong Un Elementary.
One fan of the TV sitcom “The Office” submitted Dwight Schrute Elementary.
Gehrig said narrowing down the over 375 submissions to just three was a daunting task.
“You’re naming a school, and the school will have that name forever,” he said. “You want to do a great job for the community and for the kids that are going.”
The school board will likely choose from one of these three names at its next board meeting, Gehrig said.
But no matter what the new school is named, some parents were unhappy that their child would be leaving High Lakes Elementary to attend it next year.
Five parents from the Awbrey Butte neighborhood who were concerned about the school district’s three proposed geographic boundaries for Bend-La Pine elementary schools spoke to the school board Tuesday night. These changes are being proposed as a way to help balance enrollment when the district opens its new elementary school in September.
Revealed last week at two open house meetings, the district’s three proposed maps differ slightly, but all of them show at least a portion of homes on Awbrey Butte moving from High Lakes Elementary near NorthWest Crossing to the new school, with two options showing the entire neighborhood moving.
The main concerns brought up by parents involved commuting from the Butte to north Bend, clogging up Third Street and O.B. Riley Road in the process, as well as friend groups at High Lakes being broken up.
“Most of the folks in Awbrey Butte that we know moved specifically for High Lakes. To have that decision really dropped on us last Tuesday … we really got blindsided,” said Matt Payne, a parent of a second-grader at High Lakes and another child going into kindergarten in the fall.
“To think about pulling (my daughter) out of High Lakes, and taking her in a completely different direction … I know she’ll make new friends — kids are resilient — but I don’t want to do that,” said Nicole Hanover, whose daughter is in first grade at High Lakes.
The new school is expected to open in September 2019 and hold 600 students. The attendance committee is expected to make its final boundary recommendations to Superintendent Shay Mikalson in January, and the new boundaries will go into effect at the start of the 2019-20 school year.
— Reporter: 541-617-7854, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected. The original version misstated Alexander and Florence Drake’s sawmill construction and the nature of the building named for Ruth Reid. The Bulletin regrets the errors.