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Highland News

New Year, New Faculty Lounge Since 1963

Highland High School faculty and staff returned from the winter break to one more holiday surprise: an updated faculty lounge, all courtesy of school families and community businesses. 

Spearheaded by local realtor and Highland mom, Michelle Mitchell, the goal of the glow-up was to create a dedicated space for faculty and staff to relax, reinvigorate, and reconnect with one another. 

“After the fire and the bond not passing, I felt like Highland, and specifically the teachers, needed a win,” explained Mitchell. “The staff needs to know they are loved and appreciated, not just by parents like me, but by the community businesses that we partnered with to complete this project.” 

Inspired by the idea for a major makeover, Mitchell worked first to get approval from Highland’s administration with a commitment to clear out the room. She then reached out to her go-to contact list of doers and solidified a plan. Mitchell described how within one day, she had fulfilled the entire list of wants and needs to complete the makeover. 

“I know just the right people to ask,” Mitchell said. “They are the ones who will never say no to supporting teachers and education.”

Mitchell utilized the winter break to coordinate donations for all materials, supplies, furniture, and labor for the project, which was completed covertly just in time for school to resume on January 2. 

The big reveal came with a bow on top, with the room decorated from top to bottom in festive décor and gift cards labeling all of the individuals and businesses who contributed to the project.

“We got back from break to such an amazing surprise,” said Dr. Brad Wallace, Highland High School Principal. “It was packed in here all day. We haven’t really ever had anyone use this space so it was awesome to see teachers in here mingling and see how much the effort was appreciated.” 

After earning the trust of Highland’s administration, Mitchell said she felt a little bit of pressure to avoid letting anyone down. 

“I didn’t want to overpromise and under deliver, but I think it turned out to be a great space that staff can call their own,” she said. 

The element of surprise evoked some emotional responses from staff members.

Highland’s Bursar, Shelley Huelsman, who has worked at the school for twenty-eight years, said, “We had this amazing parent and her magic elves come in over Christmas break and surprise us all. I walked in and was just in awe.” 

Huelsman described how special it was to come in after break to see everyone from teachers and paraprofessionals to substitutes and sign language  interpreters congregating in the revamped lounge.

“We had such a gathering in here all throughout the day,” she said. “Thank you to everyone who made our faculty lounge such a warm and cozy space.” 

Mitchell explained that her hope with sharing this story is that it might spark an effort within the community for people to recognize their children’s teachers for the hard work and dedication that they put in everyday to help with their educational success. 

“As a community, we need to come together to prioritize public education,” she said. 

Watch the video tour of the improved faculty lounge. 

The email note that accompanied the gift included a list of contributors. The note read:

“From your loving community of local businesses and Highland families, we hope the entire staff at Highland High School will enjoy this room as a space to relax, a space to enjoy each other’s company and to also know that we see and appreciate you for all of the time, effort and energy you put into educating our children. You deserve to be recognized and to know that you are valued and hopefully you feel loved and spoiled in this new space.”

Signed, “With grateful hearts, 

Isaac and Michelle Mitchell / Patriot Real Estate 
Nick Hottmann Art / Wall Murals 
Maple Street Sit-N-Sleep
State Farm Insurance / Aaron & Amy Moore / HHS parents 
Evans Dental & Stellar Outcome/ Evans family / HHS parents 
Denise Lane / Ellis Elementary School Principal / school parent 
Chad and Marlow Harding / Patriot Real Estate / HHS parents 
Daren Almond / First Colony Mortgage / HHS parent
Jeff & Amber Tingey / HHS parents 
Justin & Heather Jones / Sage Builders / HHS parents 
Johnathon & Tiffany Hunt / Barrie’s Ski & Sports / HHS parents 
Dustin & Megan Reno / Pocatello Wellness Clinic / HHS parents 
Nick and Lauren Hale / HHS parents 
Wheatley Funeral Home 
Lish Sprinklers / Scott and Missy Lish / HHS parents 
Highland Corporate Sponsors”

HHS Demolition Equipment

Demolition of the fire-impacted facilities at Highland High School began earlier than expected this morning due to an emergency approval granted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EFP). The demolition was originally scheduled to begin on Wednesday, August 2. The area has been secured and the demolition is being led by Paul Davis Restoration. To ensure that this process can be conducted expeditiously and safely, PCSD 25 officials ask that community members avoid the area. 

Dr. Douglas Howell said, "Beginning the demolition ahead of schedule is a great start to getting Highland prepared to welcome learners and staff back to school. We are grateful to all who played a role in initiating the process earlier than we anticipated."

Qai Gerber and Payton Carter

Qai Gerber (Century High School) and Payton Carter (Highland High School) won the two Idaho nominations for the Jimmy Awards in New York City. Sponsored and fully funded by The Broadway League, both students were flown to NYC for 9 days where they worked closely with Broadway professionals on the Juilliard campus in all three areas of acting, singing, and choreography. Out of 140,000 students across the country who auditioned for this program, Qai and Payton were among the 96 students who were chosen to participate. The 9-day program culminated with the actual Jimmy Awards ceremony hosted by Corbin Bleu this past Monday evening. Qai and Payton and the other 94 students performed musical numbers at the ceremony to a sold-out audience, which included several Broadway producers, at the Minskoff Theatre, home of Broadway's The Lion King. It's an incredible honor to be chosen for this program, and we couldn't be prouder of these two Pocatello theatre students!

Payton Carter and Qai Gerber

Payton Carter, a Junior at Highland High School, and Qai Gerber, a Senior at Century High School, made it to the final round, top 8 in the state, of auditions for the Idaho High School Theatre Awards. The top two students will be announced on June 9th and will get a paid trip to the Juilliard Campus in New York. There they will get to work with industry professionals for a week, with the top two students from every other regional program in the country. At the end of that week they will get to perform at the national theatre awards ceremony, the Jimmy Awards. Congratulations Payton and Qai.

18 Esports Team members in their official red jerseys with a rams head on the top left corner of the shirts

Highland Esports is headed to the Idaho High School Esports Association (IHSEA) state championship tournament hosted by Boise State at the BSU Esports Arena this Friday and Saturday (May 12-13th). Highland's Rocket League, Valorant, and Smash Bros. teams worked hard and qualified for the state championship tournament. We would like to send a special thanks to our Technology department who has helped provide us with equipment to compete as well as helping get our equipment moved over the PV-TEC building after the fire at Highland that allowed us to still compete in our district tournament and qualify for state. We would also like to send a special thanks to Bryan Venegas and the Idaho National Guard for helping provide our team members with official jerseys.  

We host our regular season matches and will be hosting tournament matches on our Twitch and Youtube channels.

Boise State will be hosting the state championship tournament on their Twitch channel.

Learners from Highland and Children from Mother Goose Daycare stand in front of Giant Whale Retrieved from the Highland Fire

Highland High Schools AP Bio class previously had a field trip planned for the four-year-old class at Mother Goose Preschool. Despite the losses suffered at Highland they were able to retrieve their giant whale and have the four-year-olds join them at PV-TEC. They learned all about marine wildlife, the ecosystem, and the inner workings of a giant whale. "To watch our BIG kids interact with the little kids was precious!" Jena Wilcox, Assistant Principal, HHS.

Congratulations to graduates accepted to ISU honors program

Congratulations to Highland Graduates Yiping Xu, Corinne Anderson, Briley Anderson, Cosette Wood(not pictured), Jordan Mayo, and Josiah Parrish(not pictured)! These students have been accepted into the honors program at Idaho State University. We are proud of the hard work of these students and we celebrate with them in their academic success. We are also grateful to Idaho State University for giving our Highland students the opportunity to continue to grow academically and pursue their post-graduation goals. 

District News

Highland Marquee

Now that early voting is open for the May 21 election, the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 would like to take this opportunity to remind voters that it is moving forward with the Highland High School rebuild without the need to pass the bond.

Instead, the project to rebuild Highland will be funded by legislation that Governor Little signed into law on March 29. House Bill 521

Without the assurance that 521 was signed into law at the time of its deliberation on March 29, the same day Governor Little signed the bill into law, the Board missed the deadline to remove the bond language from the ballot.

“Now that HB 521 is law we can add clarity for our community members and say, ‘thank you,’ but we are not asking community members to vote for the bond anymore,” said Deanna Judy, Board Chair. “The funding provided by HB 521 will fulfill our purpose to rebuild Highland High School.”

So, what should voters do when they see the bond question on the ballot?

“Voters can simply leave the bond question blank,” suggests Courtney Fisher, Director of Communications. “We have other important elections that rely on voters to support public education. We think it’s important to keep a positive message when it comes to our bond and levy elections.”

Fisher emphasized that in the unlikely event the bond reaches the supermajority to pass, the District simply would not issue the bonds.

“We are exceedingly grateful to be able to rebuild Highland without relying on further support from taxpayers at this time,” Fisher said.

HB 521 is projected to provide $43 million to the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District to fund facilities construction. At the March 5 Work Session, the Board of Trustees discussed earmarking approximately $31-$33 million of the funding for the reconstruction of Highland High School. The new fund reapportions the $11-$12 million the district anticipated receiving over the next ten years from lottery funds. The Board would consider the option to continue allocating those funds as part of the district’s annual Capital Improvements Program (CIP) as they have previously been allocated.

The Board took action to earmark the lump sum of new funding provided by HB 521 and use it in combination with insurance replacement monies to reconstruct Highland High School. The insurance settlement is estimated at $22-$25 million. The April 2023 fire was ruled accidental and electrical in nature, and is a fully covered loss.

As the building efforts begin, the Board and District encourages all members of the community to rally together in support of this transformative endeavor. Every individual has a vital role to play in shaping the future of Highland High School and ensuring its legacy endures for generations to come.

To follow the progress of rebuilding Highland High School, please visit the Rebuild Highland website, which will be updated throughout the duration of the rebuilding process.

Front of Highland High School

The unprecedented challenge to restore one of our community’s cherished high schools is now one-step closer. Now, due to landmark legislation signed into law, the Highland High School rebuild will be funded without the need for the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 to pass a bond.

Governor Little signed House Bill 521 into law on March 29. Without the assurance that 521 was signed into law at the time of its deliberation, the Board moved forward with submitting the bond resolution language to Bannock County to meet the March 29 deadline.

“Now that HB 521 is law we can add clarity for our community members and say, ‘thank you,’ but we are not asking community members to vote for the bond anymore,” said Deanna Judy, Board Chair. “The funding provided by HB 521 will fulfill our purpose to rebuild Highland High School.”

This groundbreaking legislation represents a crucial step to rebuild and revitalize Highland’s storied campus, offering a lifeline to the community without resorting to additional taxpayer burden through a bond measure. In the unlikely event the bond passes, the District would forego selling the bonds. The District will also forego spending any money to educate the public about the bond election.

HB 521 is projected to provide $43 million to the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District to fund facilities construction. At the March 5 Work Session, the Board of Trustees discussed earmarking approximately $31-$33 million of the funding for the reconstruction of Highland High School. The new fund reapportions the $11-$12 million the district anticipated receiving over the next ten years from lottery funds. The Board would consider the option to continue allocating those funds as part of the district’s annual Capital Improvements Program (CIP) as they have previously been allocated.

The Board took action to earmark the lump sum of new funding and use it in combination with insurance replacement monies to reconstruct Highland High School as proposed to local voters in November.

Nearly a year into the process, the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 Board of Trustees, together with Highland and District administration, has worked diligently with meticulous planning to rebuild and restore the affected areas of the school as soon as possible.  Ruled accidental and electrical in nature, the fire left behind a trail of lost or damaged facilities, including the gymnasium, cafeteria, weight room, band, orchestra, and choir rooms.

While the district met its goal to return learners and staff home to Highland High School with a traditional schedule for the 2023-2024 school year, many of the school’s classes and extracurricular programs continue to function despite being temporally displaced (with gratitude) to alternate locations.

The substantial funding injection provided by HB 521 will enable the district to undertake the comprehensive rebuilding project immediately. The priority is to restore essential facilities and implement modern amenities to enhance the learning experience at Highland. In total, Highland lost approximately 75,000 square feet of space. The project includes: (a) replacing facilities lost or damaged in the April 2023 fire, (b) adding, remodeling, and modernizing science classrooms, (c) replacing and increasing the size of the gymnasium and activity space, (d) constructing an auditorium.

Throughout their discussions, the Board has focused on guiding goals to:

  • Educate learners in facilities design for today’s standards;
  • Return all learners and extracurricular programs to campus;
  • Modernize science and music classrooms to meet the evolving needs of a growing student population;
  • Restore the gymnasium as a central hub of physical, academic, social, and cultural development, increasing the capacity and versatility of the facility to resume as the community-building heart of the school.
  • Restore functional gathering spaces critical to elevating the high school experience;
  • Build a functional auditorium to meet educational, cultural, and community needs;
  • Make prudent and fiscally responsible decisions.

“I appreciate the Board’s diligence in looking at this challenge from every angle to balance fiscal responsibility with our obligation to educate learners in safe and functional facilities that are conducive to their overall educational experience and development,” said Dr. Douglas Howell, Superintendent.

Idaho House Bill 521 signifies a paradigm shift in educational funding and community support. Championed by state legislators and supported by a coalition of local stakeholders, this legislation exemplifies a commitment to investing in the future of our community’s youth and ensuring access to quality education in a safe, productive, and comprehensive learning environment.

In a recent KPVI interview, Representative Dustin Manwaring said, “The board could potentially split this money and do a bunch of different things, but I think if they put it in one place, that will fit the intent of the legislature to put this towards building new school facilities and I think it would be good to just get that completely behind us and build the high school there.”

The Board has framed its work on this issue with the belief that rebuilding Highland High School is not just an investment in educational facilities; it is an investment in the community's economic vitality. Every time a community takes action to modernize its schools’ infrastructure, it builds the capacity to create jobs, attract businesses, and elevate property values, laying the foundation for a prosperous future. The district continues to pledge an unwavering commitment to stretch every taxpayer dollar as far as it will go as we work together to position PCSD 25 for a strong, successful future.

As the building efforts begin, the Board and District encourages all members of the community to rally together in support of this transformative endeavor. Every individual has a vital role to play in shaping the future of Highland High School and ensuring its legacy endures for generations to come.

To follow the progress of rebuilding Highland High School, please visit the Rebuilding Highland webpage, which will be updated throughout the duration of the rebuilding process.

Members of the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25’s core committee for the Highland High School Rebuild and Design Committee met on Thursday to select parent and community representatives. The core committee made the selections from a pool of thirty-five parent applicants and thirteen community applicants.

Core Committee:

  • Jonathan Balls, Director of Business Operations 
  • Brian Glenn, School Plant Facilities Coordinator
  • Susan Pettit, Director of Secondary Education
  • Tonya Wilkes, Director of Athletics
  • Bateman-Hall / Design West Representatives: Kent Craven; Shay Moon; Mike Clements
  • Highland Administrators: Brad Wallace; Travis Bell
  • Board Representatives: Deanna Judy; Heather Clarke

Highland Staff:

  • Alix Van Noy, Drama Coach
  • Camille Long, PE/Track Coach
  • Andrew Wilson, Band Teacher
  • Austin Thompson, Science Teacher

Parent Representatives:

  • Alisha Bailey
  • Akilah Lacey
  • Michelle Mitchell

Community Representatives:

  • Vermon Esplin
  • Aaron Moore
  • Michelle Wilde

The purpose of the Highland High School Rebuild and Design Committee is to provide parent and patron input on the design and rebuild of Highland High School based on established criteria, consider input from the Construction Management Team, and advise the Board throughout key phases of the project. The committee will convene the first week in April and continue meeting for the duration of the Highland High School rebuild project. The Committee is also scheduled to attend tours of 6A schools in Eastern Idaho. The District appreciates the committee members for taking a vested interest in the success of this project.

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