Manitou Park Elementary School Turns 100
Tacoma’s largest elementary school is also one of its oldest.
Manitou Park Elementary School is joining the “Century Club” with a handful of other local schools that have withstood the test of time for more than 100 years.
Established initially as a one-room schoolhouse in 1911 to meet the needs of Tacoma’s growing South West neighborhood, Manitou has consistently served South Tacoma families as a trusted place for education and fun.
Coupled with one of Metro Parks’ historic destination parks, Manitou has evolved from a one-room school and a motorcar tourist attraction of the 1920s to the consistently highest enrollment elementary school in the city.
Currently, Manitou Park Elementary School has 600 students enrolled. During the 2007-2008 school year, 850 students attended the school due to the high-demand Head Start program located on campus.
Head Start has since been relocated to Arlington and Roosevelt, taking a bit of the enrollment burden off of Manitou, but it is still more than 50 students over capacity at any given time.
But Principal Mary Wilson said that is okay – Manitou has created such a welcoming environment, the high-poverty, high-mobility school runs smoothly day after day.
“People like to come here – they feel safe,” she said.
Manitou Park was the first school in the district to adopt the “Safe And Civil Schools” and “Compassionate School” models, two programs which have since been adopted by 15 other schools.
And parent involvement and student pride is high, even though families come and go more often than most principals would like.
Having a park on campus, and the nearby Manitou Park community center – the former location of the school – helps create a strong sense of community among the Manitou neighborhood, which ultimately filters back into the school.
With free and reduced lunch rates at 85 percent – a common indicator of poverty in families – and mobility rates at 80 percent, Wilson said it is unusual to see the level of involvement and ownership in the school.
“We had 1,000 people attend our science fair last year,” she said. “We had a ‘back to school night’ after the strike, and it was packed.”
“I think why Manitou is popular now, and in the past, is because we’ve always provided a home-like atmosphere. Manitou has sustained a good reputation for the last 100 years.”
Manitou will be celebrating its century of educating South Tacoma’s youngsters at an open house event from 5-7 p.m. on Oct. 26. The event is open to students, alumni and community members to take a trip back through the last 10 decades of Manitou Park Elementary School as it moves into its next 100 years.
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