12.5.2019 - 3:45 PM - Kelly Hueckman

Last month, Prentice High students may have noticed a rather unfamiliar face wandering the halls of our school. No, there hasn’t been a new student. Phillips senior, Maylie Jiskra, shadowed Prentice senior, Megyn Eisner, as a project for her publications class to learn about the differences between the neighboring schools. A week following, the next component of the exchange took place, allowing me to shadow Jiskra throughout a regular day in Phillips High. Here, I discovered not only many similarities most likely brought by proximity and comparable size, but some surprising differences.

Upon entering Phillips School, I had expected to be a bit overwhelmed with the size of the building and classes coming from such a small school. However, I discovered the classes to be only slightly larger, falling between the 50-65 per class margin. In fact, when asked what their favorite part of Phillips High is, one of the top answers regarded their relatively small school and the privacy and relationships it allows. Phillips senior, Madeline Kulwicki, expressed her fondness of the smaller class sizes after moving from a large city: “I really enjoy the small classes,” she stated. “It allows for more one-on-one time with teachers.” 

However, unlike Prentice, Phillips separates their high school, middle school, and elementary students entirely. Shadowing a high school student, I rarely found myself bumping into the younger students or trying to block out their naturally extreme volumes. While Prentice is contained in a singular building, Phillips School District is composed of one building for middle and high school students, which is organized in such a way that encounters between the two are scarce, and an entirely different building for the elementary students. 

One of the most prominent differences I noticed during my day in the life of a Phillips student was their more advanced use of technology. In 2018, Phillips removed an entire computer lab after agreeing to assign each student their own Chromebook for the year. As most students in Prentice are aware, Prentice has a limited number of Chromebooks reserved for specific classes and only three labs to share amongst elementary, middle, and high school classes. 

Furthermore, Phillips had an ATM in their commons, a large charging station,and a special, technological method of signing out of school. At exits in the school, QR codes were taped up for students to scan with their phones to alert the office that they were leaving the campus. This process took place of the previous system, which Prentice still uses, where students would have to manually sign in and out on sheets in the office before being entered into their online attendance records. 

Using these QR codes, seniors in Phillips are also permitted to enjoy an off-campus lunch, a luxury Prentice hasn’t seen since the 1970s. Not only are the senior’s lunch period over a half hour longer than the lunch period in Prentice, but the freedom to drive into town to support local coffee shops or even to Park Falls to grab a McChicken received a great deal of positive feedback from seniors. “It’s really nice to be able to get a break away from school,” Jiskra stated. “It breaks up the day well.”

However, like any school, there is room for improvement. Among students, by far the number one thing they said they would change about the school is their parking lot and how it is used, an issue Prentice is familiar with. “It’s unorganized and hectic,” Jiskra explained. “There’s not enough room.”  Other students commented on a lack of school spirit in Phillips: “We definitely don’t have as much as you,” Jiskra commented about Prentice. “But we have more than Chequamegon.” 

After visiting Prentice for a day, Jiskra noted that the social scene in Prentice deemed to be generally more accepting and kind to others, especially between different grades. With this information, I had expected to experience a more hostile environment. However, much like Jiskra during her visit to Prentice, I was pleasantly surprised by the welcoming atmosphere. “The people are usually pretty nice, but we are very cliquish,” Jiskra admitted. “We stay within our groups and within our class.” Some students in Phillips, such as Kees Hoogland and Steven May, had many gracious compliments for their school, even after attending Prentice. May, also a senior, praised Phillips school for being an “enjoyable, healthy, and accepting environment.” 

Despite Jiskra’s compliment regarding what she perceived as a warm and welcoming environment in Prentice, very few Phillips students said they would open-enroll in Prentice if they could no longer attend Phillips. Instead, many opted for an hour long drive to Medford instead of shortening their commute by attending either Prentice, Rib Lake, or Chequamegon. “I hear a lot of negative things,” one anonymous Phillips senior said about Prentice. “Especially about mean students.”  This answer was common when students expanded on their thoughts about Prentice School, but is not much different from Prentice students’ views on Phillips students. “They just don’t seem as connected with each other like Prentice is,” said Prentice junior, Kaden Hartmann. 

Is this feud based on evidence and experience, or just traditional rivalry between the schools? After a direct view into the camaraderie in both schools, the answer might lie with the spreading of negative rumors and lack of first-hand experience. With years of competition under their belts, students from both schools have likely grown up with negative connotations of the other school from parents, older siblings, and friends.

However, among all of the gossip, the positives from each school can get buried under all of the discord. Phillips has been involved in the Sources of Strength program recently introduced to Prentice, even participating in the White Board Project. Some students may have recognized the rival school mascots, Captain Bucky the Pond Pirate and Lucky Logger getting along on social media. Not only that, but Phillips students are rewarded for good behavior such as good grades and attendance with a “Privilege Card,” which gives students extra lunch time and free admission for sporting events. After getting an inside look at Phillips High, I can see that Phillips High students not only respect other students and their staff, but understand and fulfill their responsibilities on a similar level as Prentice.