Forward to school, and back into the past

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Categories: Education

by Barbara McMichael, AKCHO

Instead of going back to school this year, high school students in the Tahoma School District in southeast King County are moving forward to school. On September 6, they’ll be walking through the doors of a brand new Tahoma Senior High School building, which has the distinction of being the largest high school in the State of Washington.

Despite all the technological bells and whistles that one might expect to find in such a building, those who planned for and designed the new facility also made sure to incorporate many reminders of the past. 

In the entrance hall, one side contains a wall with photo collages containing dozens of historical photos contributed by the Maple Valley Historical Society, the Black Diamond Historical Society, the Renton History Museum and others. Under a motto that urges students to “Honor the Past, Live the Present, Create the Future,” these images remind today’s young scholars that they are part of a continuum of students, schools and teams that have constituted the community’s educational system over the last 100-plus years. 

Woodworker Tom Ourada with his art piece, “Logjam”

On the other side of the hallway, a display case holds trophies and uniforms from past generations of Tahoma High School students. And a little further down the hall, two pieces of public art are on display that were created by former Tahoma High School students who graduated and went on to build successful creative careers. Artisan woodworker Tom Ourada, a THS 1987 grad, constructed a unique, multi-level, sculptural bench of inlaid wood. Titled “Logjam,” this intricate and highly polished artwork offers students a place to sit and gather along the school’s central staircase. And although professional artist Iris Scott, THS Class of 2002, now works out of a studio in Brooklyn and caters to a worldwide clientele, the large-scale painting she created of an intensely focused, charging bear honors the creature that has served as Tahoma High’s mascot for decades. 

Maple Valley Historical Society president Dick Peacock in the new THS cafeteria

As a comprehensive high school, Tahoma Senior High includes classrooms for everything from art to chemistry, literature, and math. It also serves students interested in vocational pursuits – farming, fabrication, auto mechanics and more. And in a nod to some of the vocations that predominated in the community in the past and that still shape the area’s infrastructure, one entire wall in the cafeteria is taken up by a photo of a steam locomotive crossing the trestle over the Cedar River and heading up to Maple Valley. 

All of the folks who contributed to the planning of Tahoma High School deserve recognition for the extraordinary effort that was invested in acknowledging the important connections to local history, while creating a welcoming place for the students of today.


Heritage Advisor is published by the Association of King County Historical Organizations as a service to members and those who support its mission. We update our website continually throughout the month, and on the first of every month we e-mail a condensed version of Heritage Advisor to our mailing list – you can subscribe to this service by filling out the requested information in the right sidebar on this page.

AKCHO was established in 1977 to encourage cooperation among historical organizations; promote and encourage the study and preservation of the history and heritage of King County through member organizations, individual members, and the community they serve; and support such preservation efforts through public awareness and understanding of legislative issues.

The Heritage Advisor welcomes submissions of news items, calendar items, and opinion columns from AKCHO members, HA subscribers, and readers. Articles are limited to 300 words and they should have a strong relevance to historic preservation and heritage issues in King County, Washington. Submission of an article does not guarantee publication. AKCHO does not pay for published submissions. All articles are subject to review by AKCHO staff. Please send your article within the body of an email (no attachments, please) to

AKCHO welcomes new members year round. Individual memberships are $15. Organization memberships are $35. Join more than 150 individuals and organizations supporting heritage work and historic preservation in King County. For more information and an application form, visit


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AKCHO was established to encourage cooperation among historical organizations and to promote and encourage the study and preservation of the history and heritage of King County through member organizations, individual members, and the community they serve, and to support such preservation efforts through public awareness and understanding of legislative issues.

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