Hoquiam considering school reconfiguration plan

Central and Lincoln would both teach grades 2-5

The Hoquiam School District is considering returning Central and Lincoln elementary schools to a more traditional model.

Currently, Lincoln teaches second- and third-graders and Central has fourth and fifth; both schools would teach all four grade levels if the reconfiguration is approved. Kindergarten and first classes are at Emerson Elementary. The schools have been in their current configuration for more than 10 years.

“Discussions had been happening for the past few years about this but it didn’t gain traction until recently because of a couple of elements,” said Lincoln Elementary Principal Kent Nixon. “We’ve had more staff and parents address the idea of returning to traditional schools, and the other is the fact that Lincoln, next fall, will be returning to our building, and if we’re going to make a change it would make the most sense to make the change now, so we’re going back into a renovated building with the right configuration of grades.”

Lincoln Elementary is in the midst of a major renovation project, funded by a combination of $2.6 million from an approved 2018 school bond measure and a little more than $7 million in state money. The renovation was delayed a year because of a lack of bids, but now the building is back on track to be open in the fall. Lincoln Elementary students have been housed at the high school during construction for in-person learning.

The reconfiguration would allow for increased consistency and fewer transitions between buildings.

“It would provide students fewer transitions from school to school and increase consistency, specifically for our students who are furthest away from educational justice,” said Nixon.

“Educational justice” means providing dedicated service to students who may need more attention that others.

“For example, students that have special needs, language barriers, students who are identified as struggling readers or mathematicians,” said Nixon. “Those who just need extra services.”

Nixon said enrollment in the schools “would be largely unaffected” by the reconfiguration. There could potentially be some staffing changes, but those are yet to be determined.

The community can weigh in on the possible reconfiguration by participating in a survey posted on the district website, hoquiam.net/lincoln and clicking the “what’s happening” tab. It’s a short survey to gauge interest in the plan and allow the community to give feedback on what sort of negative and positive impacts could result.

The survey also allows participants to tell the district if they would like to be more involved with the reconfiguration plans.

“We have a committee comprised of district employees and we have also reached out to community members who have indicated on the survey they would be interested in participating and providing more feedback directly to us,” said Nixon.

With all four grade levels at each school, Nixon said, “We want to make sure the schools are balanced in every way that we can, both geographically and socioeconomically, and with regard to students who need extra services.”

The reconfiguration would also open the door to some friendly competition and more activities that include both buildings.

“Our hope would be to have an opportunity for competition and unity in various activities and endeavors,” said Nixon. Some competition ideas could include reading level competitions between the two schools. As for unity, a project a couple of months ago, in which students from both schools made Valentine’s Day cards for Hoquiam assisted living residents, is one example.

“This year we all made Valentines for the Hoquiam assisted living residents so we could bring more love to those community members who couldn’t receive additional family member visits due to COVID, so we had our students share that love and it was well received,” said Nixon. “I anticipate doing similar ventures in the future.”