Back to School: Lewis and Thurston County Students Prepare to Head Back to Classrooms


It may not feel like fall yet, but summer break is just about over for students in Lewis and Thurston counties. 

School started for several Lewis and south Thurston county school districts Monday, with the remaining schools in the area starting next week.

Many school districts are welcoming new teachers and school staff for the new school year. Rochester School District is starting the year with a new superintendent: former Belteh School District Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Bethman.

Bethman officially started her new job on July 1. 

“My initial priorities are to learn more about Rochester and begin to develop relationships with staff, students, parents, the community and the board of directors,” Bethman previously said in a prepared statement. “I will be meeting with people to learn more about Rochester by listening and asking many questions. In addition, I will review data to learn more about students' learning loss as a result of the pandemic to prepare for our ongoing work with those students.”

The Centralia School District has new leadership this year at three of its schools: Edison Elementary, Centralia Middle School and Centralia High School. 

Josue Lowe, who has been a fixture at Centralia High School for 16 years — eight of which as the school’s principal — is starting this year as the new principal of Edison Elementary School. 

“After serving the high school for 16 years as an administrator in two different roles, I believe it was time the high school had a fresh perspective and outlook,” Lowe said. “I believe we were able to move the high school in a very positive direction over the last 16 years and had many accomplishments including a complete rebuild and modernization of the existing high school building.” 

Lowe said he is looking forward to helping lead Edison Elementary and working with its students and families.

Taking over as principal of Centralia High School is Scot Embrey, who previously worked as superintendent of the Cosmopolis School District. 

Centralia Middle School is welcoming a new principal, Lara Gregorich-Bennett, and a new assistant principal, Cherie Calhoun, this year. 

Gregorich-Bennett was previously the principal of Walter Strom Middle School in Cle Elum, a position she held for nine years. 

Calhoun was previously a resource teacher with North Thurston Public Schools. 

“We are very excited to have Scot and Lara and Cherie join Team Centralia. And we are very excited about Josue Lowe’s leadership at Edison,” said Superintendent Lisa Grant. 

See below for a list of start dates for the school districts in the area. Visit the school’s website for information on supply lists and back to school orientation events. 

School Start Dates 

• Pe Ell School District: Aug. 29 for all grades 

• Morton School District: Aug. 30 for all grades 

• Winlock School District: Aug. 30 for all grades 

• Toledo School District: Aug. 30 for all grades 

• White Pass School District: Aug. 30 for all grades 

• Adna School District: Aug. 30 for grades 1-12; Sept. 1 for kindergarten 

• Centralia School District: Sept. 1 for grades 1-12; Sept. 6 for kindergarten 

• Oakville School District: Sept. 1 for grades 1 and up; Sept. 8 for preschool and kindergarten 

• Napavine School District: Sept. 6 for all grades 

• Rochester School District: Sept. 6 for all grades 

• Mossyrock School District: Sept. 6 for all grades 

• Chehalis School District: Sept. 6 for grades 3-12; Sept. 7 for grades 1-2; Sept. 9 for kindergarten 

• Onalaska School District: Sept. 6 for grades 6-12; Sept. 7 for grades 1-5; Sept. 9 for kindergarten; Sept. 26 for preschool 

• Tenino School District: Sept. 7 for all grades