Plan moves forward to rename street to honor late Tacoma principal

Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing next month on a nomination to rename a section of roadway in honor of the late principal of Lowell Elementary School.

Former principal Bob Dahl passed away on March 18, 2012, at the age of 58 after he was hospitalized following a diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease in which the lungs develop scar tissue of unknown causes, according to Tacoma Public Schools officials. Dahl began working for the school district in 1983 when he was hired as a fifth-grade teacher at Oakland Elementary. He also taught at DeLong Elementary School as a fifth-grade teacher from 1987 to 1994. He worked as an administrative assistant at Reed Elementary School from 1994 to 1995, and served as principal of Stanley Elementary School from 1995 to 1997. He began as principal of Lowell in 1997.

Earlier this year, a group of students at Lowell Elementary School submitted a request to City Hall to rename a half-block section of North 13th Street at Yakima Avenue near their school to “Mr. Dahl Drive.” According to Sue A. Keene, a fifth-grade teacher at Lowell Elementary School, students gathered 156 signatures in support of the proposal. The nomination also includes more than five-dozen letters from students requesting the street name honor, as well as more than a dozen hand-drawn maps of the area and the section of the street to be renamed. The school’s PTA has also offered to help cover some of the expenses related to new signs and changing the school’s address, which is the only building that would be affected if the nomination is approved.

“Mr. Dahl was the beloved principal at Lowell for 15 years,” wrote Keene in a Jan. 17 letter to the landmarks commission. “He saw many children go through Lowell and contributed greatly to their academic, physical, and emotional development. Everyone speaks highly of Mr. Dahl. It was a tremendous loss to the school and the community when he unexpectedly passed away last year.

“We understand that you would probably like the students to commemorate their principal in another way, with a plaque or bench, but that just wouldn’t have the same affect,” added Keene. “The students are only asking to change a small part of North 13th Street, the part that dead ends at their school. The only people who use this street are from the Lowell Community. In considering a name change you would be contributing to the educational growth of these students and this community. They would understand that they can make a difference.”

On Feb. 27, the landmarks commission met to discuss the issue.

“We want to honor our principal, which we think would be a good idea just because of how great a person he was,” fifth-grader Grant Carr told the commission. He was joined by Keene and other students who support the plan. Carr added that Dahl remembered the names of each student and refereed kickball games in freezing cold weather. “He was a great principal for those reasons and many other that it would take a while to explain.”

Landmarks Commissioner Ross Buffington commended all the students for their desire to remember their principal.

The landmarks commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the nomination on Weds., April 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market St., Room 248. Staff will also send notification of the nomination and upcoming public hearing to interested parties, community groups, and the general public. If the commission approves the nomination, a recommendation will be made to Tacoma City Council, which will make the final decision.

A group of students at Lowell Elementary School in Tacoma has submitted a request to City Hall to rename a section of roadway near their school to honor their late principal, Bob Dahl, who passed away last year. (PHOTO COURTESY TACOMA PUBLIC SCHOOLS)