Haines School Board re-names high school gym

Haines School (Emily Files/KHNS photo)

The Haines Borough School Board renamed the high school gym. The facility, known for decades as the Karl Ward Gymnasium, will now be called the Haines High School Gymnasium.

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The action comes after allegations of sexual abuse by Ward were made public in the community.

“When I heard there were people who walked by the gym or walked by the plaque and felt pain, I just thought that was awful,” School Board President Anne Marie Palmieri said.

The High School gym was named after Karl Ward in the early 1990s.

A sign bearing his likeness was hung in the hallway outside the gym, but it’s since been removed.

Ward worked as a teacher, principal and superintendent at the Haines School from the 1950s through his retirement in the 1970s.

Ward died more than 20 years ago.

KHNS reported last month about alleged sexual abuse by Ward when he worked at the Haines School.

Several former students of the Haines School also have shared memories of Ward’s behavior, including inappropriate touching, with the Chilkat Valley News.

Palmieri hopes the school board’s action will help community members heal.

“I hope that by changing the name, it provides some closure for people who were affected by this,” Palmieri said.

Board member Sara Chapell also supported changing the gym name.

“To hear that it hurt people to walk by the gym is really terrible,” Chapell said. “I’m in full support of changing the gym name. I also would support at some point, looking at whether it makes sense for us to have named facilities on our campus at all, and whether we should extend this change to other named places on the campus.”

The board voted unanimously in favor of the name change.

The Haines Borough Assembly passed a resolution last week to create a policy for naming public facilities within the Haines Borough.

The new policy will require a public comment period prior to the adoption of a name for a facility, or whether that name is to be removed.

Public facilities can only be named after people five years after their death.

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