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Ashland School Board to consider new outdoor school name

‘TRAILS Outdoor School’ and ‘Ashland Outdoor School’ were on a committee shortlist and fully supported by John Muir Outdoor School faculty, staff and students

After months of deliberations and evaluating community suggestions, a committee tasked with recommending new names for the John Muir Outdoor School were scheduled talk with the Ashland School Board Wednesday night about their decisions, highlighting at least one suggestion supported by the K-8 school.

“TRAILS Outdoor School” is JMOS’s “first choice,” said its principal, Jennifer Parks, in a report released by the committee ahead of the board’s meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday. “Ashland Outdoor School” is the second choice, but Parks stated that TRAILS, which stands for Trust, Respect, Awareness, Interdependency, Leadership, Stewardship, is the one her school forwarded to present to the board.

“We are proud of the process to make this impactful decision and are excited to embrace our new name once the board has made their decision, regardless of if it is our first or second choice,” Parks stated in the report.

Aside from Ashland Outdoor School, TRAILS was one of four recommendations determined by the JMOS renaming committee, along with Southern Oregon Outdoor School and River Crossing Outdoor School.

“We set out to find not simply someone else in history to honor, but to identify a name that would honor the past, present and future students of the school, with its nature-based identity, and a name that would withstand the tests and weathering of time,“ the committee wrote in its report.

It is not clear whether the board meeting Wednesday would vote on a name, but the at the very least, the report was expected to be discussed.

The school board voted last year to rename the JMOS after a different committee examined all the names of the district’s buildings and recommended the Ashland K-8 school be renamed.

The committee found in its 2021 report that Muir — the co-founder of the Sierra Club and the person credited with creating the national parks system — had “negative attitudes toward Native Americans and people of color.”

After the school board voted last year to rename JMOS, the district superintendent sent out a letter asking district families for suggestions of new names. The renaming committee, which worked from February to April, weeded out some of them from further consideration because they were deemed not relevant to the district’s or the school’s values.

The committee used a rubric to score the batch of names under consideration and narrowed it down to the aforementioned four finalists before forwarding them to the JMOS community for consideration.

JMOS faculty, staff and students liked Ashland Outdoor School and TRAILS the most, ultimately reasoning that TRAILS “resonated with and without the acronym.” Though the only pitfall JMOS constituents noted is that the name “could be perceived” that it is an “outdoor adventure school (similar to NOLS, previously known as National Outdoor Leadership School, or Outward Bound).”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.