By Marianne Mueller


Prior to the vote on an important upcoming referendum a series of forums are being held in the high school library.

“We are working on an educational master facility plan,” opened School Board President, Dave Kurlinkis.

“This is a plan for additional facilities. The Board talked about these one and a half years ago and was planning to spread the process out over a two year time span. The dome was part of that plan. We did not know it would have to be replaced so soon. It only lasted 13 years and when it went down it left a big hole and compressed our time frame. At our August School Board meeting we made a resolution to place a referendum on a ballot to spend $44,000 but not just to build a new dome. That is just one small part of this.”

“Hononegah High School has roots on this site dating back to 1922. The building to the north is still being used to educate students in the 21st century,” added Kurlinkis. “When Hononegah first opened its doors there were eight in the senior class. The entire school had a total of 60 students. This year we have 2,160 students.”

Kurlinkis outlined building additions from 1922 until the last construction done in 2003.  “After an evaluation Hononegah needs to be brought up to standards. The standards at HHS are unparalleled. We have a challenging curriculum and are proud of our students. This is part of the reason that we have put the question to the referendum in November. A lot of people on the outside say it is just an athletic problem. In the Hononegah Nations this is untrue. The dome was covered and was utilized in in climate weather. Five Physical Education classes per period were held in there. We don’t have that and classes are very close now. The dome was also used for the Ro Ro Expo, athletic practices and the Peppermint Swirl Craft Show as well as other events. We had an indoor track season in there too.”

“The whole point behind these sessions is to get some kind of input,”  said Kurlinkis. “There are a lot of areas that need to be looked at. Did they get educated? Sure. Can the facilities improve, sure? Hononegah has been a real gem. Superintendent Lynn Gibson always reminds us that the full name of our school is Hononegah Community High School. We value your input and your tax dollars,” added Kurlinkis. “We had a five million dollar deficit in the past and have worked our way up to having a comfortable reserve. It is not enough to replace all of what is needed. We want to thank you for being part of the process.”

“We feel our campus is strong. We have been very financially responsible,” said Superintendant Gibson. “Hononegah has academic rigor, a strong athletic program, and many clubs and activities. Our assets lie in our parents, grandparents, administration, staff and Board of Education. Our Board of Education is one of our greatest strengths. If you ask what they are paid I always say it is anything times zero.”

“We are working together as Superintendants in learning, achievement, communication and finances,” said Gibson. “The Hononegah High School legacy has no way to measure it.”

Kurlinkis outlined the buildings history from 1920 including additions made up to today.

“If you look at today’s diplomas they still use the hyphens in the school name,” said Kurlinkis. “The original construction cost $110,000 for 284 square feet. This campus has 42 acres on this site. In 2008 107 acres was acquired to use as a future second school site. We had a little hiccup in the economy. When we look at enrollment trends we are approaching 85-90 and should start expanding. We have set those acres aside on McCurry and Willowbrook Roads.”

Gibson gave an overview of the state of the campus. “Developing a master facilities plan started last year. We need to maintain our infrastructure. The dome collapse created urgency. Our PE waiver expired last year. We had potential of a one year extension with 300-400 students using the waiver. Hononegah provides a world class education built on everything done by 1920’s standards. All stakeholders involved in improvements help to analyze population trends. It has been determined that we need $80 million and we only have $44,000 to work with which is the purpose of the referendum.”

“We as architects have become students of education,” said Kerri Matlock of DLA Architects. “We are changing how the teachers have taught in the past.  We are learning from our clients and we work with a number of schools. The architecture should support learning. This is the only way to deliver education. Flexibility is key. We do not know what change is coming in the future or how things will affect students and teachers.”

Matlock showed slides featuring today’s traditional classroom. “Before an improved system is implemented a classroom should engage each kind of learner. Bringing more of a social atmosphere provides a way to enjoy learning in a less structured way,” said Matlock. “Teachers and mentors are part of the solution. Schools must be flexible, adaptable and technology rich.”

Projects such as field houses, green buildings, social areas, an amphitheater, a wall between corridors and classrooms, use of hallways, professional venues, use of every surface, technology, usable wall surfaces, multi-media projects – ask students to create, identifying second entrances, flexible band rooms, pools becoming a community center, outdoor spaces, natural light, branding, messaging, collaborations, and space were ideas presented.

Assistant Superintendent Kim Suedbeck gave a virtual tour outlining areas that have been defined as places needing improvements. The Performing Arts Center, food lab, signage and curb appeal,  maintenance building replacement, storage areas,  new flooring, updated classrooms to the 21st Century, additional parking, a new press box, sport fields and  stadium improvements,  a pool for consideration, inadequate lockers,  and upgrades to safety and security.

Attendees divided into focus groups to prioritize the urgency or importance of specific areas of the virtual tour and offered miscellaneous ideas.

The last of four forums is on Sept. 19. The format and information will remain the same. All are encouraged to give input.

The Board of Education will review input from all sessions. All are encouraged to go to Hononegah High School’s website to the frequently asked questions area.

Findings will be presented to the public at the Sept. 21 Board of Education meeting.

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