The Patriot Press

Celebrating 40 Years of Patriot Pride

Annabelle Smith

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Happy 40th, Liberty! 

In the first week of school, students and staff celebrated Liberty’s 40th birthday with a party in the commons, ice cream, and 1,500 free t-shirts. All this was part of Principal Sean Martin’s efforts to increase a feeling of community among Liberty’s student body.
“We really liked the idea of celebrating the school and uniting as a community.  And when we realized it would be the anniversary this year, we saw an opportunity to do something that would bring people together,” Martin said. “Our school has been around for 40 years, so there’s a lot of history here.”
But what is the history of the school, and how has it changed in these past 40 years? Chuck Thuot, who started at Liberty when its doors opened, and can still be found substituting in Liberty’s classrooms to this day, knows more about the school’s history and growth than possibly anyone.
“Liberty was finished, and was supposed to open, in ‘76,” Thuot said. “But they didn’t have enough start up money in the district, so the school had to sit for a whole year, brand new, before they were able to find sufficient funds to actually open it up with staff and programs.”
In those days, high schools had only three grades, and middle schools, called junior high schools, went all the way to ninth grade. But in Liberty’s first year, only two grades attended.
“We had a grand total of about 400 students, comprised of juniors and sophomores,” Thuot said. “They didn’t want to pull seniors out of their senior year at Issaquah High School. That would’ve been pretty brutal.”
Originally, Liberty did not have a need for a large facility, and the building itself used to look quite different from the current, remodeled version.
“It was open concept, which means the hallways were all outdoors,” Thuot said. “And there weren’t any of those classrooms we have now [in the social studies wing] except for the ones way in the back, where there’s ceramics and wood shop. So there were two long covered walkways on both sides to get out there. Between them was a big pile of dirt that got weeds and stuff growing on it, and it had the name Mount Liberty.”
Along with the difference in appearance, Liberty had a smaller population and a different demographic makeup than today. ASB Advisor Michelle Munson attended Liberty in the 80s, and remembers the academic aspect to be less intense during her high school years than it currently is.
“Liberty was more of a blue collar, middle class community in the 80s, and a much smaller percentage of students went to college,” Munson said. “We didn’t have the push for AP classes, or the need for competitive high GPA and lots of clubs so our transcripts looked good.”
However, the population soon grew and changed, and the need for a bigger facility became apparent. Liberty has been through three major remodels since it opened, and Thuot has been present for all of them.
“Probably the biggest, most profound remodel we had was the second one which was done in around 1999. And I have to say, before about this time, we were always kind of considered the ‘stepchild’ of high schools in the district, and I honestly believe that paradigm changed in the remodel,” Thuot said.
Liberty was under construction when staff submitted an application for the school to be nationally recognized as a Blue Ribbon School. This is an award from the US Department of Education acknowledging schools with a high level of academic excellence.
“To get the recognition, they sent a person from Washington, D.C. to observe the school,” Thuot said. “I think what really impressed that person, as I recall, was how we were able to have such a good academic program in the midst of this construction craziness. I think that’s part of the reason we got the award. So the stepchild mentality, it ended then, with the new remodel and national recognition.”
Sydney Willoughby, ASB executive board president, believes celebrating the school’s history was important not just for the birthday party and free t-shirts, but also for the sense of community the celebration promoted.
“I think Liberty turning 40 this year is a great accomplishment, and I’m glad we got to celebrate with our freshmen and bring them into our culture. The party was a success, definitely, and everyone enjoyed it,” Willoughby said. “It was important for us to commemorate those before us and celebrate what we’ve grown to become.”

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Celebrating 40 Years of Patriot Pride