Katherine G. Johnson Elementary

Elementary #18 gets its name

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Katherine G. Johnson

We are thrilled to announce that our newest school will honor a true American hero who represents the passion, knowledge, and bravery we strive to instill in all Bethel students.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Bethel School Board voted unanimously to christen our eighteenth elementary school Katherine G. Johnson Elementary.

For those who don’t know, Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician who calculated and analyzed the flight paths of spacecraft during her more than three decades with the U.S. space program. Among many other accomplishments, her groundbreaking work helped send astronauts to the moon as part of 1969’s Apollo 11 mission.

Her life and work were celebrated in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures.”

“She was a trailblazer in her own right for so many people,” said Bethel School Board President Marcus Young. “What she was able to accomplish with her God given ability as well as everything she overcame, affected so many lives on so many different levels. It is our hope that as our students walk the halls of this new school they will be filled with the same drive to be the best at what they do, the same determination to overcome obstacles set before them and the same focus to make this world better just like Katherine Johnson.”

Prior to selecting Johnson, we assembled an official Naming Committee made up of parents, community members, district administrators, and principals. The committee met several times over the past months to go over potential school names and mascots. They considered a number of local and national figures, but in the end decided that Katherine Johnson best represented the spirit of the new school.

Johnson passed away earlier this year at the age of 101. District officials worked with her family to get permission to use her name.

Construction update

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As exciting as it is to finally have a name for Elementary #18, we still have a lot of work to do before the school is ready to open in the fall of 2021.

Construction crews have been working for months and are making great progress on the school, which is located on Waller Road between Military and 176th.

Katherine G. Johnson Elementary is scheduled to open in the fall of 2021 and be home to 700 students. It will also have space for enough portables to house another 200 students. Because of the way the state funds school construction, we can’t build schools to accommodate future growth, if we want to still be eligible for matching funds.

While our construction team is working on the school, Pierce County crews were busy revamping Waller Road, making it wider and safer for the additional traffic that will come with the new school.

Get a drone’s eye view of the work here, or check out a live construction camera here.

Bethel Early Learning Center

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Katherine G. Johnson Elementary won’t be the only new building opening in the fall of 2021. In an effort to ease overcrowding, next year we also unveil the new Bethel Early Learning Center.

This project — which will convert an old church into a learning center — will be the first of its kind in the district. It was designed to allow us to move preschool classrooms out of our crowded elementary schools and into the new building. The 12,000 square foot center will feature seven classrooms, administrative offices, support facilities, and will house approximately 250 students each day.

The center is being financed by impact fees, rather than bond money. Impact fees are collected when new homes are built in the district. The fees go up very minimally each year based on the consumer index and are generally used to purchase and place portable classrooms.

In addition to the main building, the center will feature a fun and educational outdoor space for playing, eating and learning (see artist rendering above).

Other projects

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From left: Field improvements at GKHS, the land where GK used to house portables, and the field improvements at SLHS.
  • Six double portable classrooms at Graham-Kapowsin High School were recently moved in preparation for the school’s bond-funded expansion. At this week’s Board meeting, the pre-construction phase of the expansion and renovation project was awarded to Korsmo Construction.
  • Work is also underway at both GKHS and Spanaway Lake High School to renovate the athletic fields on campus.
  • The School Board also held a public meeting this month about the proposed revision to the boundary between the Bethel School District and the Puyallup School District in the Lipoma Communities. Click here to see the presentation.
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Helping kids learn is the driving force behind all we do in the Bethel School District.

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