I am writing to express my thoughts and opinions regarding the efforts to renovate Pocatello High School, and to comment on the opposing grassroots effort, entitled Save Pocatello High School. I no longer live in Pocatello, though my family still lives there and I visit often. However, I try my best to remain interested, informed, and involved in the events happening there. My parents are both deeply involved in education in Pocatello. I attended Pocatello High School from 2006-2010. My time at Pocatello High School inspired me to become a lifelong student of the law.
At the outset, I would like to commend all groups involved in this dialogue. I commend the Pocatello School Board, Pocatello School District 25, and the Historic Preservation Commission for taking action to improve a central piece of Pocatello’s heritage and a landmark which gives a wonderful sense of orientation to Pocatello’s residents. I would also like to commend Save Pocatello High School for their efforts to be involved in the government process and for exercising their First Amendment rights, though I do not agree with their views. I understand the need to balance cultural and aesthetic preservation with forward progress, modernity, and safety. I believe, under these circumstances, the need to improve the safety and wellbeing of students is paramount.
It is my understanding that this project centers around the necessity for a safe place for students to eat and gather with friends (instead of sitting in stairwells and along the floors of the hallways), ADA accessible ramps and elevators for students and other patrons, parents, and visitors, additional classrooms to accommodate the ever-growing student body, and a much safer campus that protects students and staff from the elements and from intruders. I too believe these additions are necessary and will greatly improve the quality of the overall education experience at PHS.
During my four years at PHS, I would have loved to be able to travel from math class to art class without trudging through the snow, rain, and ice. For a student who is in a wheelchair, or a student who simply cannot afford to purchase proper winter boots, these additions could make the difference between spending a day in complete discomfort versus spending a day being able to focus on the task at hand: Learning.
Safety is another vital concern. We live in an era which, unfortunately, is marked by an uptick in school shootings and other social maladies. Pocatello High School is not exempt from the potential for an unwanted intruder to enter and cause irreparable harm to others. My understanding is that the design proposed by Hummel Architects includes features that would keep students safe, while preserving the aesthetic qualities of the school to the greatest extent possible. Safety is a prerequisite for learning, and with learning being paramount in a place such as Pocatello High School, I congratulate the school district for taking steps to improve learning. I wish School District 25, the Pocatello School Board, and the Historic Preservation Commission the best of luck in this endeavor.
Jenna P. Lyons, Esq.,