Perspectives on the new Meeker High School building

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From an MHS alumnus …

By Jay Sullivan | 1967 MHS Graduate

Jay Sullivan

Fifty-three years ago, I graduated from Meeker High School. Yesterday I went back for a sneak peak at the future of education. One member of our tour crowd asked, “Are you feeling nostalgic?” We were standing in front of the class pictures that line the hallway on the south side of the gym. Well, yes and no.

Nothing about the new school building resembles the high school I attended. Yet, there were the pictures of the people I had shared the first 18 years of my life with. Chris Selle, our tour guide and the Superintendent of Schools said that this hall was the most popular stop on the tour. “Take your time,” he said. 

One person quipped, “You know you’re old if your picture is black and white. Most of us on this tour were in black and white class photos. Groan.

The first thing I noticed was a workstation for the school secretary at the front door. “It’s a security measure. We have to have someone there,” Selle said. “Times they are a changing.” (Song from the ‘60s, Bob Dylan) 

While looking south, we were in the main lobby. It is also the entry to both the gymnasium and the auditorium. This is the public space of the school where the people of Meeker gather to cheer on our students and welcome visitors from out of town. Plus, this space doubles as seating for the cafeteria. Stone pillars and walls of glass give us a great view to the west.

The long hallways that held my dreams of skateboards flying out of control and wings of classrooms are gone. Chalk boards are out and white boards are in. Giant screens connected to the internet are now prominent in each learning space, something we didn’t have in the 1960’s. Who knew? 

The old gym, now referred to as the alternative gym by Mr. Selle, has new bleachers and fabulous new lighting. There is also a batting cage suspended from the ceiling. It is almost as though the designers knew it would snow in the first few days of September this year. The baseball team undoubtedly grinned while recently hitting practice homers in the gym. 

Selle says that this is the best alternative gym in the state. We continued our tour around the gym.  We saw the new locker rooms and went into the new wrestling room and weight room. In the wrestling room I was asked again if I was experiencing a moment of nostalgia? I felt the thickness of the wrestling mat and said I thought that the new mats were thicker than the old. How many guys does it take to roll up a wrestling mat? Answer: all of them.

Our tour continued into the track above the new gym. Yes, Selle said, there have been talks about opening the track up to people in the community to walk where it is warm in the winter. Check with the Rec Center for final access decisions. As for now, it is still under construction. 

Standing on the track and looking down I did experience a moment of nostalgia. It reminded me of the gym in the old junior high. 

Our next stop was what we in the old days would have called home economics. Everything about that space shouted, “Cooking done here.” One woman said, “I wish I had those pots and pans in my kitchen!” Perhaps I just imagined the pangs of hunger that follow teenagers around like wolves. 

Then came the wood shop and metal shop. Selle kept saying that the total square feet were less per subject matter, but the useable space is more. “What can you make in here?” someone asked. “Anything,” was the answer.

“In the shop, someone asked, can they change the oil in a car?” “They can rebuild the engine!” Selle responded. The thought struck me that the high school is equipped to give students the fundamental skills needed to make a living in Meeker and beyond. I felt a lot of local heritage in this building.

Looking at the art room I wondered if my mother had taught the first art classes in Meeker High? There was no art room when I went to school. But here is the space to create, an environment in which to create beauty. Some of the work I saw that students were doing is world class. I thought they are so dog gone lucky and I hope they know how fortunate they are.

The classrooms have a phenomenal view to the south and to the east.  Selle says there is no bad view from any classroom.  To me, the view is expansive. Light to illuminate knowledge and a tremendous view of the world to use that knowledge within. Every advantage is given in a state-of-the-art environment for students to gain the tools they need to succeed. There is so much more here than when I went to school. It is hard to imagine a better place. 

Tours are scheduled every week with reservations and masks required. Just call the school office to reserve your spot. I encourage you to visit because there is so much more to see than what I have described. The old school is gone and the new school is a place of pride for us all.

As one person quipped when we were leaving, “I’m ready to go back to high school.” Maybe just a touch of nostalgia, you think?

… and from current students

By Sophia Goedert | Special to the Herald Times

Sophia Goedert

This is a year of firsts for many in the district. First time in a school environment, dealing with COVID-19 precautions at school, and for many, it’s the first time using the new high school properly. 

We’ve heard in-depth from some staff members about the new school and I’m sure you’ve heard whispers from students about it, but they haven’t been asked out right yet and the answers are not quite what you’d expect.

 Whenever you build something that has as much public use as a school, you will always have the few people who aren’t totally happy with aspects. Even though they are grateful and realize why it was needed, critiques are always going to be there. 

Being that first impressions are crucial in influencing a person’s opinion, the first idea was the school is very modern. For Meeker, it’s probably the most modern building besides the hospital. For that reason, some returning teens are saying it vaguely reminds them of a hospital or hotel. It was a common consensus in all the people I interviewed. One saying, “I would like to add more decorations so it doesn’t feel as empty and sophisticated.” 

Being a freshman in a new school is totally different. Venturing into high school is a feat in itself, add a new school on top and it can get scary. “At first the school seemed gigantic and scary, but as soon as you walked in, it felt like walking into a cool and collected house,” a resident freshman said. 

The school does have a lot of aspects that are highly favored among students. Around the school, little breakout rooms with unique chairs are placed to optimize group learning. Which in the old school, there wasn’t a lot of. Another thing that will also probably be liked by Meeker alumni is the use of the old “M” that is placed in between the staircases. It adds a memory of the old school that is appreciated by the upperclassmen. 

Transitioning into being a senior in a new school with a lot of new precautions is sometimes disheartening. These last few years we have made memories in old school and didn’t really expect to have to try and make new ones without it. We looked forward to having our senior flight like all the other classes before. In simple terms from a senior, “With the lockers being on islands, we don’t really have a flight or area for us anymore. I liked that set up better.” Being a senior we had gotten used to our routines in the old school, so now it’s a definite challenge to adapt. “ Even though it’s two stories, it doesn’t feel as spread out as the old school did. I’m not used to the closeness of everything yet.” 

I found that opinions change with the grades. Underclassmen think the school has a very positive and relaxing dynamic even with all of the precautions that are in place. When you move up to the upperclassmen, they describe the school as, “Although put together, it doesn’t feel like a school typically would.” Obviously COVID-19 has played a part in the changing dynamic, a senior attributed it to the welcoming of a much larger freshman class than normal. “Those two things together,” he said, “Has made some confusion with navigating the school year.”

One of the major reasons we needed a new school was because of safety reasons. It was common knowledge that if you pulled on certain doors hard enough, you could get inside the school with no key and virtually undetected. With many entrances and exits, it was easier for kids to sneak out then it should have been. That’s not possible in this school. There are actually alarms on the south side doors so that students don’t use them. The only way in or out is through the main entrance. The design crew managed to get a lot of natural light incorporated without hindering the safety of students. That’s a huge relief lifted off of a ton of people’s shoulders. 

This new school was definitely worth everything put into it. Come winter time all the students are going to be grateful for a working heating system. Once the north side parking lot is finished, we’ll appreciate all of the made up parking spots we created during rush time. The classes below us will get to learn in luxury and this year’s seniors get to see the new school after living in construction all last year.  

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