In Our View: Crestline Recovering

Evergreen officials acted swiftly to help school bounce back



Even with the fire, there have been plenty of positive developments this year at Crestline Elementary School.Of course, students, teachers and parents understandably have had a tough time moving beyond the Feb. 3 blaze that destroyed their school in east Vancouver. But plenty of blessings are counted, starting with the fact that no one was injured in the incident.

Last week brought news of another example of how rapidly Evergreen Public Schools leaders are moving to help the proud pride of Lions move beyond the fire and, ultimately, return to a new Crestline at the old site as soon as the fall of 2014.

As Susan Parrish reported in Friday’s Columbian, it appears Evergreen will lease part or all of the old Hewlett-Packard campus at 18004 S.E. 34th St. as a temporary Crestline for the 2013-14 school year. No official decision has been made, and no terms of the lease have been announced, but the clearly defined item is on the agenda of the Evergreen school board’s Tuesday meeting. Such a decision would be wise, considering what the old HP site offers:

735,000 square feet (the old Crestline was about 44,000 square feet).

114 acres (the Crestline site is about 11 acres).

An assortment of buildings and rooms that almost sound like a school: six connected buildings, a cafeteria that serves 250, a sports field, a basketball court, exterior courtyards and a community garden.

It’s about 31/2 miles from the old Crestline; not close, but actually easier for coordinating a new bus transportation plan.

It’s vacant and available. The campus is owned by SEH America, which bought the property from HP after the manufacturer consolidated printer development and marketing operations at the Columbia Tech Center near Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard and 164th Avenue.

The first example of swift administrative action occurred shortly after the February fire. Within a few days — and without dithering or wasting time on bureaucratic overanalysis — Evergreen Superintendent John Deeder and his staff formulated a plan to move Crestline to five other elementary schools. Impressively, they did so while keeping together all students in each grade level. Also impressively, the host school principals, staffs, teachers and students acted quickly to accommodate the sudden influx of 75 or more students at each school.

And now, a plan appears to be emerging to reunite all Crestline Lions back on one temporary campus. And if Evergreen can meet the goal of opening the new Crestline in the fall of 2014, that will be yet another example of swift, decisive action.

Meanwhile, help continues to pour in from local and distant benefactors. A fifth-grade class in Everett sent 1,600 books to help Crestline students. One donor from Texas sent a $500 check with no instructions beyond “Do whatever you need to do to put your school back together.”

Students at Crestline continue learning. No big surprise there. But the new, unexpected lessons they’re absorbing — about dealing with adversity, and accepting generosity from friends and strangers alike — makes this year in many ways an unforgettably positive experience.