KENAI — Though she’ll soon be wearing red and black, Kyla Moore held the purple cheerleading uniform and football shirt close Friday as she walked away from a memorabilia sale at Skyview High School.
Though the petite blond was never a cheerleader, the uniform meant a lot, she said, as she talked about leaving the closing Soldotna school for the much larger Kenai Central High School to finish her senior year.
“I always wanted to be a cheerleader,” she said.
Her dad, Byron Moore took the 17-year-old to Skyview during an in-service day to bolster her “Panther Pride,” and give money to a school, he said, should never have been closed.
When considering options for Kyla’s senior year, heading to Kenai — with Skyview license plates firmly affixed on her car — seemed like a natural decision for the family.
“I came from a small private school, and my parents finally let me go to public school,” she said. “I had always wanted to go to school here, I mean purple Panthers? Come on.”
But now, given the choice between the two closest area high schools, avoiding potential conflict at SoHi was important.(backslash)
“I will not support the decision that the district made,” Byron Moore said. “I’d rather support the City of Kenai than Soldotna now.”
As he spoke, Byron Moore’s voice raised slightly, echoing some of the sentiment heard at school board meetings and public protests throughout the nearly two years it took for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to hammer out the details of a plan to change the configuration of the schools in Soldotna.
One crowded middle school fed into two high schools with dwindling populations — an issue district officials said they hope to address by moving the freshman class into its own building and the middle school students onto the Skyview campus; housing the sophomores, juniors and seniors at Soldotna High School.
The district board of education approved the plan in April, but contentious meetings continued as plans for combining mascots and school colors drew criticism from others in the community.
As the school district draws closer to the final product — a single high school, with combined colors and a star as a mascot, it has been a year of “lasts” for Skyview students.
Last homecoming bonfire, last Halloween dance, last prom, last year of athletics under the Panther logo and last graduation.
Of the handful of people who came through the school’s commons area, a few said they were angry, others said sad.
For Tammie Rodriguez, who bought sweatshirts and sweatpants for her daughters and a Skyview backpack for herself, the nostalgia is also strong.
“I graduated in ‘94, the first class to go all four years here,” she said.
She’s been commiserating with former classmates about what they’re losing as the school sheds more than two decades of Panther memorabilia.
She gestured toward the trophy case near the entrance of a school and tall brick wall filled with the names of the school’s record-breaking athletes.
“Me and my friend were talking, she wants her nameplate off the wall,” she said.
Randi Rogers glanced at Rodriguez and asked “what are they going to do with all the trophies?”
Rodriguez shrugged and shook her head.
“I don’t know, I just wish it could stay,” she said.
Kent Peterson, Skyview’s band, choir and athletic director, spent several hours Friday supervising the tables full of athletic merchandise on sale.
The students got the first look, the rest is available to the community, he said.
While cleaning out the schools closets, staff came across 20-year-old volleyball uniforms, jackets, football jerseys and several years worth of T-shirts.
“This stuff is so old it’s cool again,” Peterson said.
The mixed emotions on display during the sale, he said were becoming the norm during as the school year wound to a close.
“Emotions run strong all the way across,” he said. “I think (combining high schools will) be difficult, but in the long run, I think it’ll be a good change.”
Money from the sale will go into the school’s sports accounts to help cover student-athlete tournament travel for the year and any leftovers will be put into SoHi’s sports account in the coming year.
As Peterson spoke, another person stopped in to ask about getting their nameplate off of the wall.
“There’s misinformation that we’re selling trophies and benches and we’re not,” Peterson said.
Instead, combining the SoHi and Skyview regional and state championship banners, athletic equipment and trophies is still part of the ongoing discussion between staff and administrators, he said.
Peterson has been teaching at the school for 20 years and wants to see something good come out of the process.
“It would be nice to combine the heritage of both schools,” he said.