Hailey Papp, 9, opened Google Maps on her laptop to look more closely at the site of her future school.
“We’re going to be in that school and it’s kind of fun to do the research,” she said.
This will be the last year students attend Cold Springs Elementary, first constructed in 1930. A new school will be built a little more than a mile away near Maloney Ranch Park in Lower Miller Creek. Voters supported the project’s roughly $11 million price tag in 2015 as part of the 2020 Smart Schools bond proposal and approved the site the following year.
This month, the kids and their families will consider what to name their new school as well as what its colors and mascot should be.
“It’s fun to be a part of making a decision on the name of a school you’re going to go in, or your siblings are going to go in,” Ava Winters, 9, said.
In a letter sent to Cold Springs families, Principal Susan Daniel said name suggestions would be accepted until Monday and should fall into one of three categories: a geographical place or landmark in Montana; a national, state or local figure; or a deceased person who made “an outstanding contribution.”
The school’s Educational Innovative Team will narrow the submissions to a handful of options that will be ranked by a family and student vote later this month. The final ranking and all the original submissions will be presented to Missoula County Public School trustees at their Oct. 25 meeting.
Brian Bessette’s fourth-grade class on Thursday started to brainstorm ideas and wrote short letters to the school board explaining why their suggestion should be chosen.
“I’m thinking about the Bitterroot School because the Bitterroot River runs, like, right next to it,” Papp said, pointing to the map on her computer screen.
Across the room, Braelyn Kautman, 9, suggested the same name for a different reason.
“I like the flowers and stuff,” she said, hoping the mascot would be “a grizzly bear or just a regular brown bear ’cause they look like my dog.”
Matthew McDermott and Deacon “D-Man” Harris, both 9, also were inspired by a dog.
“We’re thinking Seaman (Elementary) because he traveled with Lewis and Clark down the Missouri River and the Mississippi River all the way to Missoula, Montana, because they passed through the trading post, I think,” McDermott said as he continued his research. (The Corps of Discovery Expedition started on the shore of the Mississippi River and followed the Missouri River west.)
“Yeah, our colors will be black and white and we’ll be the dogs,” Harris added. “I was thinking the lions, but since it’s Seaman it would make more sense to be the dogs.”
Giada Smith, 9, and her deskmate wanted the mascot to be a horse.
“The school name should be Maloney Ranch Elementary. I think this because the neighborhood that the school is in is called this and not many (Missoula) schools are named after the place they’re in,” Smith said. “It would just make it more unique.”
Nearby, Oden Fieode, 10, and Winters focused on what makes Missoula special. They wrote that the trustees should name the school Three Rivers Elementary in recognition of the Bitterroot, Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers.
“We think the mascot should be the trout because that’s a kind of fish,” Fieode said.
“That makes the most sense,” agreed Winters. “You can’t have a grizzly bear because they don’t live in the river.”
Abhi Sandhu, 9, hopes the district will name the new school after Martin Luther King, Jr. “because some of us wouldn’t be here” if it wasn’t for him. Tegan Lynch, 9, suggested Blue Mountain School because “it’s Montana’s western landmark.” Cattie Gannon, 9, suggested Bear Elementary in tribute to the Grizzlies football team. At a table at the back of the room, 9-year-olds Wyatt Lucas, Eli Dickerson and Zoey Conniff hoped to become Miller Creek Mountain Lions someday.
But Gannon said she would miss the dragon that is the current mascot.
The new school will mean changes to more than just the name and mascot, some students said.
“I have to bike to school right now and I’m going to have to take the bus to the new school,” Fieode said, noting it would be the opposite for Winters. She said, “I’m going to bike. It’s going to be really close.”
All in all, Lynch said he will only miss Cold Springs a little bit.
“I’m really excited for the new school more. It’s a lot bigger. It’s probably a lot more modern. I think there’s going to be a TV in each room, or something,” he said.