Varsity Extra

Controversy nixed mascot for new West Ada high school. So district settles on a new one.

Exploding enrollment spills into high school halls, parking lots

Four of West Ada School District's five high schools are over capacity. The district is asking voters to approve a $95 million bond March 13 to build a $60 million high school near Ustick Road to ease overcrowding, among other facilities projects.
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Four of West Ada School District's five high schools are over capacity. The district is asking voters to approve a $95 million bond March 13 to build a $60 million high school near Ustick Road to ease overcrowding, among other facilities projects.

A month after unanimously rejecting a proposed mascot for its new high school, the West Ada School Board approved a new one Tuesday night — the Owyhee Storm.

The mascot is for Owyhee High, set to open in the fall of 2020 as a 5A athletic program. The school district originally proposed “Thunder” as the mascot but met backlash from the Eagle High community, which uses “Thunder” as an unofficial mascot.

West Ada spokesman Eric Exline said the district went back to the original list of 375 suggestions for mascots and came up with a few new ones to settle on five finalists — Trappers, Pioneers, Raptors, War Eagles and Storm. He said Storm was the unanimous favorite in the district office.

“I think people kind of like the notion that it’s not another animal, it’s not a physical being,” Exline said. “It’s a different thing for a mascot that you see at a high school.”

The school’s colors are set — rust red and slate — but Exline said the district is still working on finalizing a logo.

West Ada traditionally waits to hire a principal for a new high school before picking a mascot. But after seeing how Ridgevue incorporated its mascot into the design of the school, Exline said the district wanted to pick a mascot early.

That allows West Ada to use money from the school bond, passed in March, to pay for those design elements instead of requiring the principal to raise money from the community later.

Ridgevue has its logo, a World War II-era Warhawk fighter plane, designed into the floor of its entrance way, in a silhouette in the bleachers and etched into metal containers that hold trash cans.

“You can integrate ideas of the school mascot into the design and construction of the building in the way that after the fact, it would be very hard, very expensive or impossible to do,” Exline said.

Parents, students and alumni of Eagle High protested using “Thunder” as Owyhee’s mascot because the school uses the word heavily in its branding and traditions — from Thunder Stadium to the Thundering Mustang Band to chants of “Mustang Thunder” from students and cheerleaders.

“I’m a parent of a former Eagle High football player and a current Eagle High cheerleader,” school board chairman Philip Neuhoff said in June. “I actually identify Eagle High with Thunder more than I do with Mustangs.”

Concerns over Thunder arose when the district conducted a survey of parents. Exline said West Ada didn’t conduct another survey because he worried about fatiguing district patrons with survey after survey. More people responded to the mascot survey this spring — 1,800 — than one asking how well the district did educating their children, Exline said.

Owyhee High will feature a view of the Owyhee Mountains near the corners of Ustick and McDermott roads along the Ada and Canyon county border. West Ada’s sixth high school will relieve overcrowding at Rocky Mountain and Eagle high schools.

The finalists included nods to the history of the Owyhee Mountains (Trappers, Pioneers), one of the range’s highest peaks (War Eagle Mountain) and the nearby Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (Raptors).

The idea for Storm came from the severe weather in the Owyhees.

“As someone who’s spent a lot of time in the Owyhees, it’s just a collector,” Exline said. “A lot our storms come from the southwest and hit those mountains, and it stalls them and there are these epic storms out there. I was in one myself and the wind hit 60 mph.”

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