Crosstown rivals in eastern Idaho will share school in show of unity after fire

Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 trustees unanimously approved the shared school plan between Century, Highland high schools

By: - April 28, 2023 10:15 am
Pocatello's Highland High School

The gym, cafeteria and music rooms were all destroyed in an April 21, 2023, fire at Pocatello’s Highland High School. (Courtesy of Idaho Education News)

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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 on April 21, 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,” Wallace said. “That was unbelievable, because we’re invading their space.”

Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 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.

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

School district trustees considered three options after Highland fire

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.

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

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.


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Carly Flandro
Carly Flandro

Reporter Carly Flandro works in the East Idaho bureau of Idaho Ed News. A former high school English teacher, she writes about teaching, learning, diversity and equity. You can follow her on Twitter @idahoedcarly and send her news tips at [email protected].