Pioneer Middle School administrators Paula Gayson (left) and Kristi Webster ring the old school bell for the final time at the Steilacoom location. The historic bell was rung May 31 as part of the Closing Ceremony. The new middle school opens in late August at DuPont/Northwest Landing. (Photo by Nancy Covert)
Sixth grade camp, culture fair events, dances, games‚Ä¶
How does one capture the feelings that surround the end of an era? Especially when that ending focuses on a structure that’s played a major role in student and the community’s lives for more than a century?
As part of Steilacoom Historical School District’s “Closing” of the 1917 Pioneer Middle School, current ASB officers filled a time capsule with memorabilia from 2008. The capsule is to be opened in 25 years’ time. It will be half a century before the first time capsule, filled in 1962, can be opened, according to Kathy Lech, the school’s office manager.
Although classes at the historic district’s oldest school (established in 1854) remain in session through June 13, it closes as an educational facility this year. While the building’s future has yet to be determined, school classes will resume on Aug. 28 at the new middle school in DuPont/Northwest Landing. The district’s school board is expected to make a decision about the building later this year.
Current and former students, teachers‚Äîincluding an early kindergarten teacher, school board members, school administrators, the new school’s project manager, as well as town and state officials, took part in the closing ceremony.
High points of the Saturday afternoon ceremony included one final ringing of the original school bell and burning the school flags. Scouts from Steilacoom Boy Scout Troop 71 conducted the legal flag burning ceremony.
Pioneer Principal Kristi Webster said she was “really excited” to take part in the historic occasion. The afternoon’s program included choral and band music, recitation of student poems about what the closing meant to them, presentation of a plaque to accompany a tree that will be planted at the new school, and photo presentations featuring historic and contemporary photos.
Afterward, guests gathered in the cafeteria to exchange reminiscences while enjoying refreshments and conversation.
The School Bell, Ms. Webster assured the attendees, will follow the students to DuPont where it will be placed in a specially prepared site. The new Pioneer School hosts its “official” grand opening on Saturday, Sept. 20. Watch for details about this event.
Pioneer Middle School, originally Steilacoom School, opened in 1892. A brick building to replace the original two-story wooden building was built in1917. Several additions were made to the building in the 50s and 60s, while portable classrooms were added in the mid 90s. During the late 1990s the building was retrofitted to make it earthquake proof: the February 2001 Nisqually earthquake tested that improvement.