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MLSD lists possible names for new high school, gets feedback

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | September 13, 2021 1:05 AM

MOSES LAKE — The Moses Lake School District has narrowed the list of possible names for the new high school — currently referred to as “Real World Academy” — to five, and is expected to pick a name for the new school at its next meeting.

At a regular board meeting on Thursday, board member Shannon Hintz, who led the committee to find a proper name for the high school, said the five finalist names are: Ronald Reagan Academy, Renaissance Academy, Vanguard Academy, Sinkiuse Academy and Sinkiuse Innovation Academy.

Hintz said the choice of academy rather than high school reflects the school’s focus on project-based education.

Board member Elliott Goodrich, who had proposed Ronald Reagan as the school’s namesake earlier in the year, asked school planning principal Kelly Cutter to wait another two weeks before a final name is selected to get comments from district residents.

“It’s important that we get this right for the community,” Goodrich said. “We need comments from the people we represent.”

The two-hour-long meeting was tense, with concerns expressed in public comments over the teaching of critical race theory and the recent dismissal of superintendent Josh Meek, and beset by technical problems, with the livestream forcing a delay to the meeting’s start. Several audience members walked out, refusing to wear masks as requested by board president Vickey Melcher after Melcher threatened to adjourn the meeting.

“Good luck, people!” one woman said as she left the meeting, which was also attended by two Moses Lake police officers.

“I understand there is a lot of anger and frustration, and we appreciate that,” Melcher said.

Melcher said as president of the board, she has been working with other school districts in eastern Washington to advocate for more local control, and while she thought they had been making progress, it felt a lot like “two steps forward and 10 steps back.”

Melcher said the district’s residents and the elected board members need to work together and be civil even when they disagree, sentiments echoed by Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, Rep. Alex Ybarra, R-Quincy, and Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, all of whom attended and spoke at Thursday’s meeting.

All three said they hated both the mask and vaccine mandates, and they have struggled with state officials to get them to hear eastern Washington’s concerns.

“We don’t need vaccine mandates; we need education,” said Ybarra, who was a member of the Quincy school board until resigning last year. “It should be your choice, not the governor’s choice.”

“I had COVID. Bad COVID. I still hate these masks,” Dent said, noting he and his wife have also been vaccinated.

Dent said the threat from Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal to withhold funding from districts that fail or refuse to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccination mandate and in-school masking mandates, may or may not be constitutional, but that’s not an issue that will be decided by the people.

“That’s a question for the courts, and I cannot predict how they will rule under the current circumstance,” Dent said.

Warnick said it’s hard for Republicans in Washington state to have much influence in how laws are written and interpreted given they are in “a deep minority” in the legislature. However, she said it’s important for everyone to stand together and work together.

“You are not alone. The school board is not alone. The people in the audience are not alone. People are trying to divide us,” Warnick said.

Warnick said while members of the Senate’s GOP caucus hope a school district stands up and challenges both the mask and the vaccine mandates, she hopes it is a wealthier district like Bellvue and not Moses Lake.

“I don’t want to see our money go to court,” she said.

However, while comity reigned, a number of those in the audience spoke on the current state of the district during the official comment period.

Matt Paluch, who ran in the August primary for the board seat held by Elliott Goodrich, said he was disappointed with Meek’s firing and the former superintendent’s name was dragged through for no legitimate reason.

He also criticized board members for the way they conducted themselves in public meetings.

“Last board meeting was difficult to watch,” he said, asking board members to think about how they conduct themselves.

Grant County Prosecuting Attorney Garth Dano said the current draft form asking employees to justify their religious exemption is a violation of federal law, and asks questions an employer is simply not allowed to ask.

Once someone asks for a religious accommodation, Dano said, an employer cannot ask any more questions. Otherwise, an employee has cause to sue under federal civil rights laws.

“I don’t question religious claims,” Dano said of his office.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, talks about the need to work together at Thursday’s regular meeting of the Moses Lake School Board.