Crestline readies moves

Five Evergreen elementary schools to welcome students, staff displaced by fire

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter


photoClick to enlarge.

"We're getting new first-graders!" Jahaira Cardenas, 6, bounced up to her principal, Jerry Evans, in a hallway at Ellsworth Elementary on Tuesday afternoon.

A banner painted with "Welcome to Ellsworth" stretched along the floor. Kindergarten teacher Erika Muir explained that students later would add to their artwork the names of the 90 Crestline Elementary first-graders who will arrive at Ellsworth on Thursday morning to finish their school year there.

When a fire destroyed Crestline Elementary on Sunday, it displaced nearly 500 students plus about 50 staff and faculty. Evergreen Public Schools officials met on Sunday and Monday to plan how best to transition Crestline students and staff members. Grade levels will stay together and will move to five other district elementary schools, where they will remain for the school year. Returning to class on Thursday, Crestline students will stay with their Crestline teacher and classmates at their new schools. The district met with elementary principals on Monday to set the plan into action.

Evans, his staff, students and volunteers are preparing to welcome four classes of Crestline first-graders to Ellsworth Elementary. They have only another day to make it happen.

How to help

Carol Fenstermacher, spokeswoman for Evergreen Public Schools, said the district has been overwhelmed with people wanting to donate school supplies. The district would prefer that people make cash donations online to the Evergreen School District Foundation.

To create four new classrooms at Ellsworth, the computer lab is being transformed into a classroom. Three more classrooms are being chiseled out of portable spaces formerly used by the school counselor, the occupational and physical therapists and the band program. Those are part-time programs that will double up in other portable classrooms.

Dave Schaefer, the instructional coach at Ellsworth, is tweaking the schedule to find times for the Crestline students to eat, go to the library, have P.E., music and recess.

"We're making sure everything is as normal as possible for them," Schaefer said.

Community volunteers have called to offer help in getting the new classrooms set up, Evans said.

"You hear about when disasters happen across the country, everybody chips in," Evans said. "That's certainly what we've seen here."

Thursday is Ellsworth's biggest night of the school year, Pride Night, an opportunity to share student work with parents, staff and community volunteers. This year the event will welcome Crestline students and their families into the fold.

Outside on the school's brick facade, the school's readerboard says it all: "Crestline, we are thinking of you."

What’s happening at other schools

Kindergarten at Mill Plain Elementary School

• Current enrollment: 461.

• Crestline students: 92.

• Classrooms created: 4.

A total of 10 classrooms are moving so that Crestline students can be kept together in a kindergarten wing with Mill Plain kindergartners. All kindergartners will have lunch and recess together.

“It’s like Mr. Toad’s wild ride around here,” Lori Strohl, the registrar at Mill Plain Elementary, said on Tuesday morning.

Principal Karen Fox: “Our goal is to help them preserve their Crestline identity and to help them feel welcome in our community.”

First grade at Ellsworth Elementary School

• Current enrollment: 440.

• Crestline students: 90.

• Classrooms created: 4.

The school’s computer lab is being transformed into a classroom. Three more classrooms are being chiseled out of portable spaces formerly used by the school counselor, the occupational and physical therapists and the band program.

Principal Jerry Evans: “Our staff is really excited about this. Everybody’s chipping in to make it the best for the kids.”

Second grade 
at Columbia Valley Elementary School

• Current enrollment: About 525.

• Crestline students: 75.

• Classrooms created: 3.

Crestline students will continue their routine as an early-schedule school. They will have breakfast and lunch 30 minutes before Columbia Valley students.

Principal Jim Fernandez: “Our No. 1 concern is that we want the Crestline students to feel like a part of our community. They’re part of our family now. We’re working fast and furious to get those rooms set up for them.”

Third grade 
and students in the Academic Learning Center, at Riverview Elementary School

• Current enrollment: 464.

• Crestline students: 93.

• Classrooms created: 5.

The school is adding a lunch period, moving specialists to smaller quarters, combining a couple of offices and repurposing spaces.

Principal Ruth Beggs: “On Thursday morning, we’re opening our doors early at 8 a.m. so that Crestline students and families can take a tour and meet some Riverview students. We’re super excited to have them.”

Fourth and fifth grades at Fircrest Elementary School

• Current enrollment: 450.

• Crestline students: 165.

• Classrooms created: 7.

The school is moving specialized programs, including the pull-out EXCEL program, to other locations to create seven new classrooms.

Principal Margaret Varkados: “Our goal is that we’re going to make this work. It’s what we do. We help one another. The phone has been ringing off the hook. People want to help. What we need right now are positive thoughts from everyone.”

EXCEL (highly capable) pull-out class: These Crestline students will attend the EXCEL class at Evergreen Public Schools’ Flex Academy, 13501 N.E. 28th St.

Susan Parrish:360-735-4515;; Twitter:col_schools.