POCATELLO — School District 25 will appeal the Pocatello Historic Preservation Commission’s recent decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness for the second phase of the Pocatello High School renovation project.
Officials with the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District say they plan to appeal the commission’s decision on Aug. 1 to the City Council. Currently, school district officials aren’t considering making any changes to their proposal.
The school district has set aside $7.5 million — money that is coming from capital improvement funds, not a voter-approved bond — for the Pocatello High School renovations, according to district spokeswoman Courtney Fisher.
The first phase of the project involves remodeling the high school’s front entrance. That work is already underway and is expected to be completed in late August.
During the proposed second phase, the school district wants to add 10 classrooms and a commons addition to the historic high school in order to address growth, safety and accessibility needs and create a stronger sense of community.
“Our obligation to serve the needs of our learners is our priority,” Fisher wrote in an email response to the Idaho State Journal. “The recent changes in the high school boundaries is anticipated to increase enrollment at Pocatello High School by an additional 100-150 learners in the next two years.”
Fisher calls the proposed project a “forward-thinking solution” that would help meet several goals: increase student safety by connecting the main building with the auditorium and gym; create a clear main entrance and centrally located administrative offices; provide ADA accessibility to the main and upper floors of the high school as well as new additions; add classrooms and a commons area to accommodate more students; and help alleviate lunch room congestion.
But not everyone agrees with how the district wants to go about making those changes.
The district wants to use glass panels on the connector, which has proven to be controversial.
Opponents don’t think the glass panels would match the historic architecture of Pocatello High School, and the Historic Preservation Commission’s members seemed to agree with that assessment.
The commission voted 5-2 to deny a certificate of appropriateness during the July 3 meeting at City Hall. Members seemed most concerned about a lack of harmony between the high school’s brick buildings and the glass panels on the connector; some felt the proposed structure would negatively alter the school’s symmetry.
But Fisher says the design for the glass connector was chosen, partly, because it would provide a transparent view of the historic architecture of the old gym and auditorium building behind it. In addition, the glass design would provide a light-filled commons area for students to congregate in and provide an effective solution to constraints posed by major utilities, she wrote in her email response to the Journal.
Historic Preservation Commission member Latecia Herzog indicated during the July 3 meeting that it might help to see the floor plans for the second phase, which weren’t provided by the school district to the commission. School district officials at the meeting also would not provide the Pocatello High School second phase remodeling plans to the Journal, but city officials did later provide those plans to the newspaper.
“Maybe you need to present (the floor plans) as part of this plan, so that as we look at your design for the exterior we can understand how you got to the exterior that you got to,” Herzog told school district officials at the meeting.
If they can get their plans approved, school district officials want to begin construction on the second phase in late spring or early summer of 2020 so they can complete the project by fall of 2021.
Officials hope the $7.5 million they have set aside will be enough to cover the project. Fisher said the Board of Trustees has directed the architectural firm to make modifications to the design, if needed, in order to keep the project within the proposed budget.
“With today’s escalating construction costs, any delay of the project has the potential to negatively impact the budget moving forward,” Fisher said.