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Beacon Hill elementary plans drive-through museum before school closes
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Beacon Hill elementary plans drive-through museum before school closes

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At the end of this year, the last set of Beacon Hill students will walk out the doors, but the staff wants to let them cruise through history before they go, and they need the community’s help.

Before Beacon Hill is decommissioned and its students attend the new Lexington school, staff will host a drive-thru museum showcasing events from the school’s five decades as part of the Kelso School District. School staff is asking anyone with photos or objects from the school’s history to lend the items to the school for the event.

Principal Tim Yore said he thinks it will be “amazing.”

“What I really hope for is that visual connection with their teachers and staff,” he said. He hopes the event will give the whole community “one last opportunity to visit as a Beacon Hill group.”

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Those with photos or information to share are encouraged to email it to bhoffice@kelsosd.org.

The school opened in 1967 and served about 100 or 150 students at the time, Yore said. Capacity peaked at about 620 students, when the school held K-6 until about 2005.

PE teacher Scott Sims said the most challenging part of the project is finding information.

“Even the Cowlitz County Historical Museum doesn’t have all that information,” he said. ‘We’re looking for a list of principals and that’s not something you think about keeping. We’re looking at old pictures to figure it out.”

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The drive-through museum will feature booths that correspond roughly to a decade, Sims said, although the 60s and 70s will be combined under one tent, as will the 2010s and 2020s. Certain beloved programs and traditions will get their own tents as well, he said, like extreme team, the pumpkin run, sock hop and Jump Rope For Heart event.

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Past and present staff and students will man the booths. They’ll show off historical objects and photos, and some even plan to dress in the clothes they wore back then, Sims said.

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To comply with COVID-19 guidelines, a voiceover explaining the history of the school from Kirc Roland with KLOG radio will play over the radio, broadcast from an FM transmitter purchased by the school.

Fourth-grade teacher Tammy Parsons said volunteers in the booths will wave and interact distantly with those in the cars, and there will be a video slideshow with the voiceover uploaded to the school’s website for those who can’t make it to the event.

“It’s the best we can do,” Parsons said. “We’re making lemonade out of lemons.”

Sims said while “it won’t be interactive in a reach out and touch and hug way, people can have a quick visit from the car and wave.”

Yore said that as plans started to transition Beacon Hill and Catlin Students to the new Lexington school, committees also looked at the best way to close down the schools. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a single, large event was planned, but organizers decided to split them up into smaller events due to the pandemic.

“We want to honor and celebrate the history and traditions at Beacon Hill and Catlin, and the people,” Yore said. “The staff and families that have shared their kids with us.”

Parsons said it was an honor to help the school cap off so many years of memories.

The event will be from 2-8 p.m. June 16, the last week of school. Sims said they hope the community will come out and send the school off with a fond farewell.

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“Whether you’ve taught here for 2 years or 22 years or 42 years it’s a really special building,” Sims said. “Once people have spent some years they’re equally as sad to leave Beacon Hill, so it’s really tough. I’ve been here 33 years. You look at our new building and say, ‘Wow, I can’t wait,’ and then you start thinking about the history and traditions here and you don’t want to leave.”

"You look at our new building and say, ‘Wow, I can’t wait,’ and then you start thinking about the history and traditions here and you don’t want to leave.” - Beacon Hill PE Teacher Scott Sims

Beacon Hill PE Teacher Scott Sims
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Built for 950 students, the new school will replace Beacon Hill and Catlin elementaries and boast “academic wings” to separate grade levels, two science, technology, engineering and math labs, a separated gym and cafeteria and an outdoor play area enclosed on three sides by the school.

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