The committee tasked with the cultural shift for the new Soldotna schools configuration is making progress. The group has decided on mascots, is close to finalizing the new color scheme, but is stalled at a new name for the 10th through 12th grade building, which is currently Soldotna High School.
At the end of Tuesday night’s meeting, the Soldotna Schools Advisory Committee had a few things decided. The 7th and 8th grade mascot will be the Panther, and the 9th grade house will share the Stars mascot with the new 10th through 12th grade building. And the group was feeling pretty good about the idea of using blue, purple, black and white for colors for all three schools. Skyview teacher Darren Jones said going in that direction could reduce the shock for some students and make for an easy first day of school.
“I think, symbolically, when we think of merging all the colors, you’re really merging everything. That’s a true merge,” he said.
Most of the group agreed that students and extracurricular staff could decide specific shades of those colors over the years. They didn’t want to dictate too much. Plus this would be a cheaper option to go with. Instead of totally revamping the colors for each building, just add a touch here and a trim there. SoHi Senior Kelci Benson pointed out an even less expensive option: keep everything as it is.
“Just because you change the colors, it’s not going to change people’s attitudes about it,” she said.
Benson said she’s been hearing that some students in the 10th through 12th grades might be trying to avoid attending the new school. So, she said why go through all this trouble if some kids aren’t going to be on board anyway. Skyview student Austin Laber has been hearing the same thing.
“There’s a lot of kids at Skyview that are either trying to graduate early or going to homeschool or RCA or trying to get out of the system before they switch,” he said.
A lot of the more passionate statements were made while the group was discussing the new names for each school. There was agreement for calling the 7th and 8th grade building Skyview Middle. The 9th graders could go to school in a building called Soldotna Prep, but the 10th through 12th grade name is a bit murkier.
A few members pointed out that no matter what you do, if you leave Soldotna as the first name in the school it’ll always be SoHi. But Mike Gallagher wanted to at least include one more word like “central” or “unified” to help differentiate. He has a student at Skyview.
“I’m in favor of adding the third word. I’m looking at this through a parent’s eyes. I’ve got a son who is a junior, and quite frankly, a lot of those kids over there feel they are collateral damage with this merger,” Gallagher said. “And I think if we just go with ‘SoHi,’ they’re going to have that feeling going into that. I understand there were no promises made. I would say there has been implications that there would be a change. If we don’t give these kids some change, they’re not going to feel like they’re part of this.”
Soldotna Middle School teacher Joel Burns said he understands this is an issue that many people are passionate about. But having the group focus on what kids will be losing is the wrong approach. He said to remember what’s being gained with the merger.
“There’s lots of positives… and I know that isn’t all part of what we’re doing here, but I’ve just heard a lot of what people are losing,” he said.
In the end, the group could not agree on the new name for the SoHi building. That will be the big focus of the next gathering. The committee will be meeting Monday Oct. 21 at 5:30 p.m. because of the Skyview/SoHi volleyball game scheduled for Tuesday Oct. 22.
-Ariel Van Cleave/KBBI-