After much discussion, the Washougal School Board has selected a name for its newest elementary school.
Columbia River Gorge Elementary beat out two other finalists, Nch’i Wana Elementary and Gibbons Creek Elementary, by a 4-1 vote.
Nch’i Wana is Native American for “Great River,” and Joseph Gibbons was a prominent resident of Washougal in the 1800s who donated land to the district to build an elementary school.
Board member Jaron Barney cast the dissenting vote.
“If we go with Gibbons Creek, it’s just another white person we are naming a school after,” he said. “How often do you get to name a school after an indigenous community that predates any of us? I really think this is a unique opportunity to go in a different route that will bring a sense of inclusiveness to a community that has been marginalized at times.”
Board member Karen Rubino noted that Nch’i Wana was an interesting name, but voiced concern that it could prove challening to pronounce and spell.
“I like the uniqueness of the Native American name but it will get butchered,” she said.
Board member Teresa Lees said she asked her children and husband which name they liked best.
“The kids loved Nch’i Wana, but my husband preferred Columbia Gorge Elementary,” she said.
The School Facilities Naming Recommendation Committee conducted a community search via an online survey for suggestions during a two month period and recommended the finalists to the board.
The naming committee was comprised of Rhea Bohlin, Rene Carroll, David Cooke, Joyce Lindsay, Blaine Peterson and Rick Thomas.
Construction on the 400 student elementary school, which will be located next to Jemtegaard Middle School, is expected to begin this summer.