Anyone who remembers the early days of the merger between the former Districts 9 and 12 to form North Wasco County School District 21 may have been surprised that the mere hint of removing “Wahtonka” from the name of the district’s main high school building wasn’t met with a phalanx of angry, sign-carrying protesters.
That wasn’t the case at the Sept. 12 district meeting — despite ample and detailed advance notice of the topic in this newspaper. Instead, the agenda item met with no opposition and the school board quietly approved the change back to The Dalles High School.
The change may not be official until the 2016-17 school year. The date is probably dependent on when the mandated new mascot is adopted, but many students and community members have been calling the school “The Dalles” throughout most of the past nine years, since the district took effect.
The Sept. 12 decision also makes official the name Wahtonka Campus for the former Wahtonka High School, home to a variety of educational programs, as well as Sid White Field and other sports facilities.
Both changes are an acknowledgement of common practice within the community — many local residents reverted to the traditional names because the east-west designations under The Dalles Wahtonka High School were confusing.
“The Dalles Wahtonka High School” was a solution for another time and we’d like to think at least some of the divisions and enmities it was intended to bridge have eased with time and effort.
The fact that the change has yielded no angry letters to the editor thus far, may be another sign of improvement.
Reaching the point where both schools could be restored to their original names has involved treading a long and too often bumpy road, starting from the date the measure passed on the ballot, but only in one of the original two districts.
The timing is perfect, as another landmark happened this year: The first class of freshmen not to have started kindergarten in separate school districts entered high school this year.
These students have never known the “Us and Them” division that other students knew in their younger years.
Future classes may learn the history of the 9-plus-12 districts that now equal District 21, but they will be one group from start to finish.
However, it is important to remember that one vote does not automatically place a “HEALED” stamp on the divisions of the past.
While the children of this community are moving forward as one body, it is important their adult role models maintain open lines of communication, treat one another with respect and work together through the democratic process to lead the school district into the future.
The discussion of the high school’s future mascot will offer an opportunity for the district to practice the lessons they have learned through their Sanctuary training.
The groups most affected by the change — students and teachers — will have the biggest say, but the district has promised open communication through the process.
That’s exactly what needs to happen to move forward as a community.