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Yelm Community School is proud to reopen the beautiful and completely rebuilt Southworth Elementary

Yeselms are a thriving community of dedicated and local-minded residents who deepen their relationship with the Nisqually Tribe. In recent years, many community members have become concerned about the state of the local school in the community and have attempted to undertake a complete reconstruction of Yelm Middle School and Southworth Elementary School. With the move from bond metrics to 64% in 2019, Yelm Community School was able to make this dream a reality. On Tuesday, September 7th, the new Southworth Elementary officially reopened after a year of rebuilding and welcomes students to a new, beautiful and culturally connected study space.

Southworth Elementary opened in 1976 and has now been completely rebuilt and reopened on September 7 this year. Students, staff and community members are thrilled to see new life breathe into this long-established element of the community. Photo source: Yelm . Community School

Much needed reconstruction comes to life at Southworth Primary School

Southworth Elementary opened in 1976. Mr and Mrs Southworth are beloved members of the education community who were honored to be represented at the school when it first opened. Over the years the school has remained beautiful to the eye, but has unfortunately begun to experience internal wear and tear that affects its functionality and long term safety. Members of the Yelm community came together to discuss ways they could help promote the rebuilding of their beloved local schools. Southworth Elementary Senior Carer Paul Manwiller has worked for Yelm Middle School and Southworth Elementary for many years, and has seen firsthand how important it is to renew these two educational spaces.

“My wife Sandra and I were on the Citizens for Yelm committee during the bonding process,” recalls Paul. “We’re working with the district to promote the cause and educate voters in the community about why we feel the need for that bond, especially for the growth we’ve seen coming to the Yelm District Community School.” The school is slowly becoming overcrowded as the Yelm community continues to grow, leaving students with limited space to enjoy their educational experience. After three attempts to meet the requirement, voters finally pushed it to a super majority in 2019 and the district immediately started work developing plans and designs for the new schools. Yelm Middle School was first rebuilt and opened in 2021. Southworth Elementary School students were temporarily transferred to the old Yelm High School while their new school was demolished and rebuilt. After just one year, the new Southworth Elementary is proud to open its doors to the students and the Yelm community.

A Growing Partnership with the Nisqually Tribe

The Nisqually tribe is very happy to see their ancestral language represented on the school walls. The 4 main representations are salmon, mountains, cedar and rivers, illustrated here with the Lushootseed translation. Photo source: Yelm . Community School

The Yelm Community School had the honor of working with Yelm City and the Nisqually Tribal Council to ensure the rich history of the community is represented in the rebuilding. Together, they were able to work with the BCRA design team and incorporate elements of Yelm history and Nisqually influences into the school so students can connect and learn easily. “Our goal at Southworth Elementary is to provide the best possible learning environment for our children,” said Brian Wharton, Community School Superintendent at Yelm. “You don’t do that by not involving the Nisqually community and tribe.”

Heather Hocklander, Project Manager and Director of BCRA, and her team have worked diligently to capture key aspects of the history of the Yelm and the Nisqually Tribe and relate them to the main themes of Southworth Elementary. The four main elements they highlight in this new school are salmon, water, mountains, and cedar, which can be seen beautifully represented throughout the school. “We build schools for students, teachers and staff to honor the past and support the future with a friendly and safe learning environment that delivers the best value for society,” said Heather . “Our team is honored to be part of a Southworth historical series that sets out to acknowledge the past and create a legacy for the future.”

Members of the Nisqually Tribe at Southworth
The Nisqually Tribe has been honored to partner with the Yelm Community School and their rich history is represented throughout the new Southworth Elementary School. Photo source: Yelm . Community School

During the opening ceremony, the Nisqually Tribe performed a blessing ceremony for the school and shared their gratitude for the partnership with the Yelm Community School. Antonette Squally, Vice President of the Nisqually Tribe and Custodian of the Lushootseed Language, is an alumnus of Southworth Elementary who appreciates the involvement and inclusion of tribes in this project. “It was a very small school, and looking at it today and the growth of the city of Yelm and the school district has been incredible,” he said. “I want to thank Southworth Elementary for putting the Lushootseed language on the wall. Acknowledging the words of our ancestors has strengthened our relationship as a community and I am deeply grateful for the bonds we have forged together. The partnership between Nisqually Tribe and the Yelm Community School continues to grow, providing more opportunities for appreciation and connection for future generations.

Southworth’s legacy lives on

Kay Southworth-Martin of the Southworth family excitedly cut the ribbon to officially celebrate the opening of Southworth Elementary.
Kay Southworth-Martin of the Southworth family excitedly cut the ribbon to officially celebrate the opening of Southworth Elementary. He knew his parents, Mr and Mrs Southworth, would be very proud of his new school. Photo source: Yelm . Community School

Opening Southworth Elementary is honored to welcome the Southworth family in this beautiful renovation of the Yelm Community School. Four generations of the Southworth family attended, each admiring their continuing legacy. In its design, the story of Mr and Mrs Southworth is held to heart, resulting in a lovely reading nook in the library. “My mum and dad will be very happy and proud of what you have accomplished,” their daughter Kay Southworth-Martin said while visiting Southworth Primary School. “This is a happy day for our family.” Whenever students want a quiet place to read or a comfortable place to listen to a story, the Southworth Reading Corner will be waiting for them. The Southworth family’s legacy and influence on society will be remembered for generations to come.

Yelm Community Schools would like to thank the constituents, BCRA, FORMA Construction and the Nisqually Tribe for their dedication, contribution and support to the new Southworth Elementary School. None of this would have been possible without the friendship and teamwork of committed members of the Yelm community and the Nisqually Tribe Council. Thanks to this partnership, primary school students at Yelm now have a beautiful, engaging and connected educational space to learn and grow.

Southworth Elementary School
402 W Yelm Avenue, Yelm


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