Clark Elementary School turns 60
September 13, 2011
By Tom Corrigan
Aging school faces uncertain future
For some time after it opened its doors in September 1951, the Issaquah elementary school on Second Avenue Southeast was simply known as “the new school.”
At least that is how articles from The Issaquah Press refer to the school, which initially consisted of six classrooms serving only grades one and two.
Somewhere between 1951 and a formal dedication ceremony held in March1953, the new school became Clark Elementary, named to honor former Issaquah School District Superintendent George Clark.
Marking the school’s 60th birthday, the Clark community held a celebration Sept. 9, complete with a birthday cake for one of Issaquah’s oldest existing school buildings.
“We really wanted to celebrate the history,” said Heather Maloney, president of the Clark PTA. She added that Clark holds a back-to-school event at the start of every school year and marking the building’s past seemed like a natural.
While the school’s past is fairly clear, its future could be considered somewhat cloudy. District leaders are discussing replacing the aging school. The project could be a major part of a capital improvement issue voters likely will be asked to approve in February. The price tag for a new Clark has been set at $19.5 million.
Clark’s original construction cost was $486,000, or $10.76 per square foot, including an addition added shortly after the school opened.
Completed in the fall of 1952, the addition brought the total number of rooms in Clark to 18 at the time of its formal dedication.
The district renovated the school in the early 1990s, said Principal May Pelto, adding some unique features such as a kiln, a dedicated art room and a dedicated science room.
The building now has 17 classrooms and holds about 350 students.
Back in 1953, that original dedication ceremony was apparently well attended. Dignitaries present included city and school officials, along with state education leaders. A highlight of the ceremony was the reading of a letter from Jessie Clark, George Clark’s widow. The Press reprinted the letter in its entirety.
“May his influence for good be passed on from generation to generation and the principles and high ideals he endeavored to instill in his pupils be imparted by the teachers to their pupils within its walls,” Jessie Clark wrote of the school.
George Clark died in June 1950 at Shadycove Acres in Issaquah, according to Erica Maniez, executive director of the Issaquah History Museums. Jessie Clark had retired to Florida, according to a news story about the dedication.
Having become superintendent in 1916, George Clark oversaw the first graduating class of the Issaquah school system, according to information provided by the district. That first class consisted of four graduates. At least for that year, Clark served as a principal as well as superintendent.
The recent birthday celebration included several Clark alumni who now have children of their own in the school.
Chris Prochazka and Heidi Fuhs expressed fond memories of Clark, especially of a teacher who also ran a farm to which students often took field trips.
Though he doesn’t necessarily like the funding mechanism, Prochazka said he was in favor of replacing the school “with something better” as long as the name stays the same.
“I don’t want it to change,” chimed in another alum, Brandon Peterson, 12.
Helping out at one of the several games set up in the Clark courtyard, Brandon said Clark is “cool” just the way it is.
Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.