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St. Paschal school to close

Carol St. Clair dishes up some sweet and sour ham for St. Paschal preschool and Educare students recently.  She has cooked at the school for 17 years. 
 (J. Bart Rayniak / The Spokesman-Review)
Carol St. Clair dishes up some sweet and sour ham for St. Paschal preschool and Educare students recently. She has cooked at the school for 17 years. (J. Bart Rayniak / The Spokesman-Review)

After 68 years educating students in Spokane Valley, St. Paschal Catholic School will close its doors for good June 12.

The threat of closure had loomed for years as enrollment declined, but parents and church members were always able to pull things together. Until now.

“The cost of operations continues to increase,” said Principal Dick Pelkie. “We just don’t have enough kids to warrant continuation of the school.”

In 2006, the Park Road school had 64 students in grades K-8. Only 50 remain. When school staff sent out registration packets for the 2008-09 school year, 25 were returned. At its peak, the school had about 200 students.

Pelkie said the parish isn’t in a financial position to prop up the school.

“In fairness to the kids, the decision is probably the best decision we could make at this time,” he said of the school’s closure. “There’s some sad people, but I think they understand the economics of it.”

The school will try to go out in style, making the eighth-grade graduation ceremony on June 6 a farewell to the school. Alumni are welcome to attend, and there will be a picnic after the ceremony.

– Nina Culver

‘Valley Mike’ raises ruckus

Paul Revere has nothing on “Valley Mike” Wolther. Except that the British really were coming.

Wolther, a real estate agent whose nickname is his trademark, inadvertently lit up the Internet last week with an old-fashioned paper handbill that dubiously warned a jail might be coming to Spokane Valley.

“Our city will be known as the ‘Prison Town,’ just like Walla Walla is known,” Wolther said in a handout at a meeting of some 45 business people.

Wolther’s warning – largely accurate if a bit lathered – was picked up and embellished in e-mails that blew through the area like another unseasonal snowstorm.

It became difficult to tell who was saying what in the e-mails, which got rolling with help from one of Wolther’s colleagues and a Central Valley School District principal.

Greenacres Elementary Principal Terry Ellifritz sent messages to some of her fellow principals that said, “This is certainly disturbing news…. Please read and pass on to anyone that lives in the valley.”

Pass it, they did. Someone in the Spokane Public Schools got a copy and forwarded it to dozens of people. Some of those, in turn, forwarded copies to friends and spouses, and county officials’ telephones began ringing.

By that time, Wolther’s “jail facility” had become “a new maximum security prison in our neighborhood.”

Never mind that it’s probably not going to be in Spokane Valley, or that it’s a replacement for the county’s minimum-security Geiger Corrections Center.

“Does it walk like a duck and quack like a duck?” Wolther asked. “Whether it’s a prison or a jail doesn’t really mean too much to me.”

He said he was alarmed to discover a county Road Division gravel pit on Tschirley Road, east of the Spokane Industrial Park, is Spokane County’s third-ranked location for a new jail. He persuaded county commissioners to extend the period for written comments until April 29, when commissioners may select a site for the new jail.

The Tschirley Road site is unlikely to be chosen, according to Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Sparber and County Commissioner Mark Richard. It’s too valuable as a gravel pit, they said.

– John Craig

Sandpoint plan readied

Sandpoint’s vision calls for a pedestrian-friendly community, filled with bike paths, parks and stunning views of undeveloped areas surrounding town.

The city’s draft comprehensive plan is the product of more than a year of public input, said Laura Bry, a citizen member of the plan steering committee.

It calls for developing more trails and adding parks, creating pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets, providing housing for all income levels, mixing residential and commercial uses, promoting green development and making sure Sandpoint provides what residents need as well as what tourists want.

“The current plan is by all intents and purposes 25 years old,” said Rick Hastings, whose company Studio Cascade was contracted to work on the document.

Sandpoint Planning Director Jeremy Grimm said a final plan should be adopted by June.

The plan focuses on keeping growth contained within existing city limits as much as possible.

Some say that the goal of reducing sprawl could come at the expense of established neighborhoods where the comprehensive plan envisions streets of single family homes being converted to townhouses, offices and retail stores.

“I don’t think they’re being realistic about what this community can handle without extending the city limits,” said Lucille Davis.

Read the draft at

– Amy Cannata


Top stories in Spokane

At last battle of Deep Creek re-enactment, Union and Confederacy return to Gettysburg

UPDATED: 8:55 p.m.

updated  With the thunderous crack of a cannon and the sulfurous pop of a musket, the Battle of Gettysburg was on. The Union soldiers, clad in various shades of blue, moved slowly up the hill to the tune of artillery fire drowning out a lonely trio of musicians playing the songs of war. Beneath them and occupying a small meadow, Confederate infantry men and women fired in unison to their superior’s command, each snap bringing a flurry of gun powder dancing in the air.