In its nearly 40 years as an elementary school, Naches Trail has had just one major renovation, and that was only after the school burned to the ground in 1981.
In both February and November, the Bethel community voted on school construction bonds that would have built three brand new schools and renovated and expand Naches Trail, among a host of other projects.
The project would have reduced the need for portable classrooms, modernized teaching facilities, and improved site circulation for parent pick-up and drop-offs.
Voters rejected the bonds, making them the 16th and 17th such bond failure in the last 21 attempts since 1980. The overcrowding issues still exist, so the school board is putting a similar bond back on the ballot in February.
Naches Trail was originally designed to fit 413 students, but thanks to population growth the school is now home to nearly 600 students. Building capacity would be increased to 700 students with the passage of the bond.
Naches Trail has a long and interesting history in the Bethel School District. The school had only been open for two years when, in 1981, it was severely damaged in a fire. Students attended Clover Creek Elementary during the 1981 school year while construction crews worked to rebuild the school. The new Naches Trail reopened on its original foundation in time for the 1982 school year, but little has been done to upgrade the school since then.
Despite its age and condition, Principal Sean McKenzie says Naches Trail is still offering students a well-rounded, world-class education.
“We’ve already got a great program, but our kids deserve to be in an environment that stays warm or stays cold, and that isn’t cramped,” McKenzie said. “Bethel has done such a great job helping all the other schools, but now it’s Naches Trail’s turn to get the phenomenal learning environment that the community has put forward for the rest of the schools.”
McKenzie says his students and staff work hard and deserve a school that looks and feels like a place children want to be.
“I want a place where kids will be proud to say, ‘That’s my school,’ rather than ‘She’s an ugly old pig, but we love her,’” he said.
In addition to expanding and renovating the building, the bond project would also make it easier for parents to drop off and pick up their kids from school, according to Cathie Carlson, Bethel’s Director of Construction and Planning.
“There will be huge improvements to site circulation,” Carlson said. “Traffic flow will be changed dramatically. Bus loops, parent pick-up and drop-off, and parking will all be reconfigured and improved.”
Election Day is February 12. More information about the bond is available here.