After nearly an hour of presentations and discussion, members of the North Thurston School Board decided Monday night to seek public input before moving forward with a process that could give Thurston County’s largest school system a new name.
A meeting has been set for 7 p.m. May 12, with a location to be determined, for people to weigh in on a proposal that could change North Thurston Public Schools to Lacey Public Schools. It’s an idea that Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder and soon-to-be retired school superintendent Raj Manhas have both supported.
School Board president Aaron Owada said the board wants to hear from community members about that idea, or other possible names, such as Lacey North Thurston Public Schools.
North Thurston Public Schools’ Community Relations Department also will launch a survey to collect input. It’s on the district’s website, nthurston.k12.wa.us.
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“On a scale of ‘A through Z,’ we’re at ‘A.’ Because we’ve never had any kind of public discussions about this and because this topic has come up for the past three or four years, at least, if not more, we felt that it was time to have a discussion, before there’s any kind of proposal, before there’s any kind of vote, before there’s any kind of decision made,” Owada said at the beginning of the meeting. “And that’s why it’s absolutely critical that we get the input from the community.”
He said the board plans to honor the community’s desires and keep the process transparent.
The work session included presentations on the history of the district and the city of Lacey. School Board members also asked questions and shared their thoughts on the proposal.
Board member David Newkirk said he’s on the fence about the issue. He said he’s concerned about potential costs, but he believes Lacey Public Schools would help students identify with the area.
“Being a military brat, being all over the world, being in the military, (people say) ‘Where ya from?’ I say Lacey,” Newkirk said. “I don’t say Olympia for a reason, because I do not like certain things in Olympia, that’s just the way I am. But it is an identification thing. … Nobody says, ‘I’m from North Thurston County.’ ”
Board member Marcia Coppin said she wants to hear what students think about the proposal. She also wants to hear from the business community, which Manhas and Ryder have said is in favor of the name change.
“I would like to hear both sides,” Coppin said. “… It would help me understand, I suppose, why it would be so important to the community.”
About 40 people attended the work session, including several community members who say they’re against the plan. They weren’t allowed to address the board because it was a work session, but several said they will fight the proposal because it isn’t a reflection of the district and it ignores the area’s history.
Gretchen Benjamin, whose children attended North Thurston Public Schools, said she thinks a name change would be a waste of money and is unnecessary.
“I don’t feel like our schools are really Lacey schools,” she said. “I live in the county. People ask me where I’m from, I say Olympia. I don’t say Lacey.”