Crosstown rivals will share school in show of unity after fire

POCATELLO — They may be crosstown rivals, but the Highland Rams and Century Diamondbacks will come together for the next five weeks, sharing one building. 

The show of unity comes after an electrical fire scorched Highland Friday, reducing one of its wings to ashes. 

While the two schools are normally competitors, Highland Principal Brad Wallace likened the situation to moving in with relatives after losing your home. 

“I have been overwhelmed by the support of the Century administration,” Highland Principal Brad Wallace said. “That was unbelievable, because we’re invading their space.”

Pocatello/Chubbuck school district trustees unanimously approved the shared school plan — which involves both student bodies switching to hybrid learning — at a special meeting held Wednesday afternoon. 

“The Board appreciates the thoughtful approach the district has taken to come together to address the immediacy of this issue,” Board Chair Jim Facer said in a press release. “This situation presents us with a rare opportunity for the community to see another level of the district’s MORE TOGETHER mission in action and it makes me proud.”

Starting May 1, Century students will attend classes in person at their school three days a week, and learn remotely the other two. Highland students will take over Century for in-person learning two days a week, and learn online the other days. 

Highland students will also have the option to meet with teachers face-to-face at the district’s Portneuf Valley Technical Education and Career Campus building on their remote days. 

And thanks to Idaho State University, some Highland students — those in the developmental learning program and extended resource room — will resume classes fully in-person at the university’s Albion Hall, starting this week. 

Highland / Century Schedule for 5/1-5/31:

M/W/F: Century students learn in person @CHS / Highland students learn remotely with optional in-person help available at PV-TEC.

T/TH: Highland students learn in person @CHS / Century students learn remotely

School will be canceled Friday for all Century students so staff can prepare for the changes. 

The shared school option was one of three presented to trustees. The others would’ve entailed Highland students learning primarily online with some limited face-to-face options, and Century learners would have been unaffected. 

But district leaders advocated for the shared building plan because of a feeling that students “can’t afford another year or even another six weeks” of entirely remote learning and the potential learning loss that could accompany it, Sue Pettit, the district’s director of secondary education, said.

The district has a third high school — Pocatello High — and administrators there were just as willing to host Highland students. However, Century was ultimately chosen because of its easy access for parking and transportation. 

“We’re delighted that we’re in a position to help,” Century Principal Sheryl Brockett said. 

Century staff leaders were unanimously willing to make the sacrifice for the benefit of learners across the district. 

“The support is absolutely there,” she said. 

But at least one person — Highland teacher John Goddard — was opposed to the idea. 

“It makes no sense to me to disrupt the lives and learning process of an additional school,” he wrote in an email to trustees. “Also, to suddenly transplant an entire teaching staff to an unfamiliar setting w/unfamiliar resources is compounding an already difficult situation — not remedying it.”

Instead, Goddard advocated for virtual learning for the rest of the school year, which he said teachers would be prepared for due to pandemic-era school closures. 

Friday’s emergency school closure at Century will provide time for Century teachers to meet with Highland teachers and help answer any questions about the building and its resources, and for Century teachers to prepare for the shift to hybrid instruction.

“Our overarching goal is to proceed with learning with as little disruption as possible, but ultimately, this process is going to have districtwide impact for both the short and long term. It’s up to our entire community to direct this effort in the most positive way possible,” Superintendent Douglas Howell said in a written statement. 

In other business, trustees also unanimously waived the requirement for Highland seniors to take the Idaho Standards Achievement Test if they hadn’t done so their sophomore year. District leaders said the waiver would impact a small number of students. 

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro reports from her hometown of Pocatello. Prior to joining EdNews, she taught English at Century High and was a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She has won state and regional journalism awards, and her work has appeared in newspapers throughout the West. Flandro has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and Spanish from the University of Montana, and a master’s degree in English from Idaho State University. You can email her at [email protected] or call or text her at (208) 317-4287.

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