Students at Spokane Valley High School, 2011 N. Hutchinson Road, in the West Valley School District, were treated to a surprise in their common room when they returned from summer vacation last month.
At the end of last school year, the room was dreary and drab. The walls were plain white and barren.
“It wasn’t the atmosphere that we wanted,” said Principal Larry Bush.
The room now sports custom murals painted by Jena Ponti. One wall has the school mascot – the Phoenix –with the words, “Imagine. Believe. Achieve.” Another lists the school valedictorians and the notable students who had been featured in The Spokesman-Review’s graduation edition of the Voice.
The third wall is painted with an agricultural scene to feature the school’s Farm-to-Table Program and includes the likeness of sophomore Savannah Turner. The other half of the mural reflects the scene of a student moving on to college and career.
It also includes the school mission statement, “We are an enterprising small school, founded on relationships and driven to actively challenge students. Through teamwork, all things are possible.” There are also the “Three Rs,” which stand for relationships, rigor and relevance, and the “Three Cs,” college, career and citizenship.
Bush said Ponti visited the school and discussed with staff what direction the mural should take. After a series of rough drafts were submitted, it took her three weekends to complete the project.
The school also added a new smart board to the front of the classroom – a whiteboard that can be written on and used as an online tool.
“The kids love it,” Bush said. “It’s so strikingly different.”
The room is used not only as a common room, but as a classroom during the day and at the end of the year students present their culminating projects to parents, business people, community members and other students.
Spokane Valley High School is a non-traditional choice school that draws students from around the county. Bush said students learn through experience at the school and are taught that working and thinking hard is just as important as the social aspect of high school.
“We push the kids very high academically,” he said.
The murals at the school have been giving the students a sense of ownership to the building that once housed two banks.
“Everybody has been really impressed with the work she (Ponti) did.”