Governor says Crestline will rise from ashes

Praising students and staff of burned school, Inslee cites resilience

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Students and educators from Crestline Elementary School, which burned down last month, received a boost to their spirits Friday afternoon, when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee visited and promised to help them get a new building as soon as possible.

Standing in front of the Vancouver school's charred shell, Inslee chatted with about 10 students, and praised them for their strength. He said he was impressed that the district was found substitute classrooms for the displaced students in a matter of days.

"These are some of the most stalwart, resilient students," Inslee said. "I'm really inspired by what you're doing here. When I talk to other students and teachers, I'll tell them about your story and the great work you're doing, and I'll come back when the new school's built."

The governor also discussed the plan for rebuilding the school. Evergreen Public

Schools Superintendent John Deeder told Inslee that insurance will cover about two-thirds of the cost, but he's hoping the state can help with the rest in its capital budget this year.

Doing so would take legislative action, however.

"There was a deadline to get stuff in for the capital budget, and this school burned down three days after that deadline," Deeder said.

"What we're asking for is an emergency clause in the capital budget (bill) to allow them to release funds to us while we're building the school rather than after we build it. That will keep us from having to borrow money to replace the school."

Inslee praised Crestline's former building for its energy efficiency, and said he hopes the new building will follow in that tradition. The district hopes to have a new school built by September 2014, educators told the governor.

"This is a good way to save taxpayers money, to not waste energy in school buildings, so I'm very encouraged that the plan is to have another LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status building," Inslee said.

At Crestline, some students participated as "watt watchers," and one of their duties was to make sure lights were turned off when they weren't in use, Crestline Principal Bobbi Hite said.

Hite and Deeder said Inslee's visit will be one that sticks with the students for many years to come.

"These kids will never forget this day," said. "We know people care, but it's a nice reminder that people are reaching out to us and supporting us."

'Student of the Day'

Inslee dubbed Crestline fourth grader Josh Krzysiak, 9, "Student of the Day" for Washington state after Josh was able to tell the governor what "resilient" means. As a reward, Inslee took the Washington state apple pin he was wearing on his lapel to put on the boy's Crestline Lions sweatshirt.

"I was kind of nervous because it was a little bit weird to meet someone famous and just talk to them," Josh said after the event. He added: "I feel really sad that the school burned down, so I'm glad that other schools have offered us help to let us be in their school."