Despite major community support for naming the new high school in southeast Bend after recently-deceased Medal of Honor recipient and former teacher Robert “Bob” Maxwell, the school will not be named after him — or any other person.
The name of the new high school in southeast Bend has been whittled down to three geographically-themed choices: Woodlands High School, Vista High School and Caldera High School.
Chris Boyd, the new school’s principal, said these choices, instead of naming the school after a person, were intended to be inclusive and reflective of the potentially diverse student body and the southeast Bend community.
“In the end, the (naming) committee believed that the most inclusive approach was to think about things that might not alienate someone based on gender, race or background,” he said.
But local veterans advocate Dick Tobiason, who worked with Maxwell on multiple projects honoring veterans in Central Oregon, said he was very disappointed to not see Maxwell’s name in the group of name finalists.
“It would have been entirely appropriate,” Tobiason said. “You would think the school would say, ‘Gee, we get a chance to name the school after an educator, and he’s a Medal of Honor recipient.’”
Respondents in a Bend-La Pine online survey last fall overwhelmingly favored naming the new high school after Maxwell, who died in May 2019.
Maxwell received many awards for saving lives in World War II, including two Purple Hearts. After returning to the United States, he eventually settled in Central Oregon, where he taught auto repair and service at Bend High School and Central Oregon College.
The three final proposed names, announced by Boyd at Tuesday night’s Bend-La Pine School Board meeting, were selected based on four criteria: the name had to be unique to southeast Bend, convey pride for the region, evoke emotions and reflect the multitude of cultures of its future students, he said.
These names were chosen by Boyd and a committee of teachers, parents and administrators, nearly all with a connection to southeast Bend. The school board will vote on the three names on March 10.
The first name, Woodlands, represents the ecosystem of southeast Bend, which is a middle ground between mountainous forest and High Desert, according to Zak Boone, a naming committee member and parent of a student at High Desert Middle School.
The second name, Vista, not only reflects southeast Bend’s mountain views, but is also a name that is equitable to both Spanish and English speakers, said Katy Carrillo, a naming committee member, Bear Creek Elementary School teacher and parent of students at High Desert Middle School and Summit High School.
The new high school will host the Spanish dual-language program, where classes are taught in both English and Spanish. More than a quarter of the student population of High Desert Middle School, which will feed into the new high school, identifies as Latino.
“It was important for us to bring a name that really transcended cultures,” Carrillo told the school board. “We love this name because it’s the same in both languages, whether you’re a Spanish or English speaker.”
The third name, Caldera, bridges the gap between southeast Bend and the Sunriver area, where eighth grade students will get to choose between attending the new school and La Pine High School, Boyd said. The Newberry Caldera is right next to Sunriver.
The naming committee opted for Caldera rather than Newberry due to the former having its roots in the Spanish and Latin languages, Boyd said.
At the school board meeting, Boyd displayed a comment from a Bend resident, who said many places, like Newberry, are either named after Europeans or are Anglicized names.
“Names like these make a statement about who is remembered and why,” the anonymous resident said. “A name that is geographic and neutral may speak to more people.”
According to school board rules, a school can only be named after a person if the person has been dead for at least five years.
The school district has shied away from naming schools after people in recent years. The last time Bend-La Pine named a school after a person was William E. Miller Elementary in 2009, recognizing the former head of Miller Lumber.
The new school’s colors are now set in stone, Boyd said. The primary color will be burnt orange, similar to the color used by the University of Texas Longhorns, complimented with a dark navy blue.
Those colors were chosen partly because it was different than the other area high schools, Boyd said. The only other Central Oregon high school with orange as a primary color is Culver High School, and it’s a bright orange.
The new high school is under construction at the intersection of Knott Road and SE 15th Street in southeast Bend. It is expected to welcome students in the fall of 2021.