Education

Lakewood honors fallen officers with new Four Heroes Elementary School

VIDEO: Lakewood's four heroes honored with new school

A grand opening celebration was held at Four Heroes Elementary School in Lakewood on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The school is named in honor of the four Lakewood officers that were tragically killed.
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A grand opening celebration was held at Four Heroes Elementary School in Lakewood on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The school is named in honor of the four Lakewood officers that were tragically killed.

Clover Park School District’s newest elementary school doesn’t follow traditional naming conventions. It wasn’t named after a Lakewood neighborhood or an individual person.

And Four Heroes Elementary School doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

“I was surprised,” Lakewood interim police chief Mike Zaro said about his reaction to the name.

But it doesn’t take long for the significance to sink in.

Four Heroes celebrates the lives of Police Sgt. Mark Renninger, Officer Tina Griswold, Officer Ronald Owens and Officer Greg Richards.

The four were gunned downed in a Parkland coffee shop before their scheduled shift the morning of Nov. 29, 2009. Their killer, Maurice Clemmons, was later shot and killed in Seattle by a police officer.

“Generations from now, kids are going to come to this school and people are going to ask them what does ‘Four Heroes’ mean?” Zaro said during a dedication event at the school Thursday night.

“They can know that there are people out there that lost their lives for their community,” he said.

Zaro was joined by school district officials, state legislators and congressional representatives, Lakewood City Council members, police officers and other first responders.

Several remembrances and tributes already have been established to honor the “Fallen Four,” including at Lakewood City Hall, in front of the police department and outside the coffee shop where the officers died.

But the name chosen for the school, a place filled with hope and promise, shows optimism for the future, Zaro said.

“It’s not ‘Fallen Four Officers Elementary School,’” he said.

Hope was a big theme of the evening’s program. Students recited a “Kids at Hope” pledge affirming a child’s ability to succeed and set goals for the future.

Adults in the audience were asked to recite a similar pledge, promising to support the children to achieve success.

With only six days to practice since school started on Sept. 2, the Four Heroes student choir gave a nod to the school’s name with its performance of the song “Heroes” by Swedish music producer Alesso.

Members of two of the fallen officers’ families attended the ceremony, Zaro said, although they asked not to be recognized.

School Board vice president Carole Jacobs called Nov. 29, 2009 the “darkest day in Lakewood’s history” and said the community came together in the weeks and months that followed.

The unity included approving the bond measure needed to build the new elementary school and the adjoining Harrison Preparatory School at the corner of Steilacoom Boulevard and Lakewood Drive southwest. The $92 million bond also paid for a rebuild of Hudtloff Middle School.

The combined cost for Harrison Prep and Four Heroes was $75 million.

The 65,000-square-foot school can hold up to 650 students and is equipped with the latest in classroom technology, including computers in every classroom, digital whiteboards and enhanced audio-visual systems.

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