After four years of proposals, planning and construction, Pullman’s newest elementary school has officially opened its doors.

Hundreds of community members, school employees and future Kestrels — the new school mascot — turned out late Thursday evening to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for Kamiak Elementary School. Superintendent of Pullman Schools Bob Maxwell said the excitement was palpable.

“This is our Super Bowl,” Maxwell said. “This is an excellent teaching and learning space. We really just appreciate the generosity and support of the community.”

The event kicked off with a ceremonial blessing sung by representatives of the Palouse people, with a hide drum and a brass handbell for rhythmic accompaniment. Each of the three singers were related to Chief Kamiakin, a 19th-century leader of the Yakama, Palouse and Klickitat peoples, for whom the school was named. Singer Lucinda Simpson said the song was an exhortation of protection for those who enter Kamiak’s doors.

Maxwell said the new school has been in the works since 2015 and comes just in time — Pullman’s second-newest elementary school was built more than 20 years ago. Kamiak’s inaugural principal, Evan Hecker, said each of the district’s three other elementary schools — Jefferson, Franklin and Sunnyside — were at about 125 percent capacity. With the introduction of Kamiak’s 24 classrooms, Pullman elementary schools should each be down to around 85 to 90 percent capacity. With the first day of school visible on the horizon, Hecker said he’s excited to get started.

“It feels great — all the relationships that we’ve built over the last couple of years with the families and the students and for the community at large are now all coming together,” Hecker said. “We’re taking three elementary schools — now we’re going to have four and (we’ve) kind of got this new community.”

Pullman City Councilor Eileen Macoll, in attendance with several of her colleagues, said she has been watching the project since its earliest days and she is pleased with the results.

“It’s big, it’s beautiful — I thought they did a terrific job of selecting the fixtures in the restrooms and such for accessibility and dignity for those who need accessibility,” Macoll said. “I thought it was a very thoughtful design ... and wait till you get a load of the view out back here — it is something else.”

Located at the end of Northwest Terre View Drive, the new school is perched on the westernmost edge of town, with ample views of Palouse hills rolling into the distance. As the evening stretched on and the shadows became long, it was difficult not to stare as the wind swept across amber farmland heavy with the fall harvest. WSU Raptor Club President Hannah Tarlyn, in attendance with two kestrels — a pair of small falcons named Everett and Amelia — said it’s easy to see what makes the space ideal, and not just for its human inhabitants.

“This is actually kind of perfect kestrel habitat, where the school is,” Tarlyn said. “They like the open fields to fly over and hunt for prey, but there’s also trees to perch on, so it’s probably a bird the kids are going to see when they’re out at recess.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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