As the current principal of Pocatello High School, I would like to offer my thoughts regarding the renovations planned for our city’s “Crown Jewel.” I have been the principal for the past five years and graduated in Poky’s Class of 1984. My husband was in the Class of 1982, and my two kids were in the Classes of 2003 and 2004. My mom was in Poky’s Class of 1959, all my siblings graduated from PHS, and I have several other family members who are also alumni. Loyalty and love for this incredible school is practically part of my DNA.
I spend 60 to 70 hours a week at Pocatello High School, whether that’s in my office, classrooms, media center, hallways, or the cafeteria. I spend countless hours in our old gym (The Pit), our new gym (The Palace), and the auditorium for special events and activities. I am in a unique position to offer insight into why this renovation is necessary to truly save Pocatello High School.
Education today is far different from the education I received. I’ve had the inside view to watch its advancement during my time as a classroom teacher, a parent of students in Pocatello Chubbuck School District 25, and as an administrator. Technology used to be an overhead projector and purple “dittos.” I never worked with classmates during school but often met at the library or a friend’s house to do homework. When it was time for lunch, I rarely ate in the cafeteria, because it was crowded. I sat in Poky’s stairwells or begged one of my favorite teachers, to sit in their classroom, vowing not to spill. My teachers used chalk.
Today, PHS has sets of 32 Chrome books in almost every classroom and Promethean or Smart boards cover many chalkboards. Teachers still use chalk because they love writing on 100 year old slate boards and feeling connected to the teachers that came before them. Students have the opportunity to collaborate and engage with one another as well as with other students all around the world via technology but often struggle to find a space to do so. The proposed new commons area would provide this space.
Lunch in the cafeteria is still overcrowded and students still sit in stairwells, on the floor of hallways, or in a favorite teacher’s classroom. As a principal, it warms my heart to see teachers inviting students in on their lunch hours, but I also worry about their needs as professionals to have appropriate breaks and a down time during the day. The cafeteria is located in the basement of the old gym and was built with a capacity of 250. It is crowded and bustling with cafeteria workers scurrying to serve hundreds of meals per day in 40 fast minutes. The proposed new commons area would provide the space for additional food options and a comfortable place to eat.
When I attended Poky, school safety meant fire drills and trying to survive initiation week. We still have fire drills, but thankfully initiation week is no more. We now have lockdown drills and teach survival strategies for a school shooting.
All of the doors are locked during the day, and we have designated one of the front doors as the “main entrance” with a doorbell and camera to show an ID for entry, but it is difficult for new visitors to know which door this is.
The proposed main entrance design addresses this confusion and enhances school safety as visitors will enter directly into the main office rather than into a hallway. Following tradition, the main office will remain where it has been for decades. This is important for two key reasons. First, the main building is the heart of the school. Even with the new addition, the main building will still house the most students for the majority of the day, and it makes sense that the administrative offices remain centrally located. Second, moving the administrative offices to the new addition would decrease the number and size of new, updated classrooms that this project seeks to add.
When I attended Poky, students who required ADA accessibility, went to other schools. They are still, today in 2019, required to attend other schools because Pocatello High School does not have ramps or elevators to gain access. The proposed main entrance design will allow students who use a wheelchair to attend Pocatello High School.
I love Pocatello High School’s rich history and tradition. The buildings are a thing of beauty, but we must make the buildings conducive to the needs of today’s students.
The PHS student body continues to grow, and we must have the physical space to accommodate this. The architects working on the project, the district leaders, the school board and all of us at Pocatello High School have and continue to strive to create a design that compliments the beauty of the school while accomplishing the goals of the project within a budget.
As a proud Poky graduate who cherishes my memories as a student and reveres the history and architectural beauty of the school, and as the current principal who wants to give my students the best education and facilities to support it, I can’t say it loud enough. To truly save Pocatello High School, additions and renovations must proceed.
Lisa Delonas is a Pocatello native and current principal at Pocatello High School.