New decor policy in West having impact on teachers, classrooms

KwaTashea Marfo, Editor-in-Chief

Gracie Hansen
Teachers are struggling to make their classrooms a “safe place” that is both educational and comfortable for students because of a new room decor policy in effect this year.

According to Dr. Sheryl Reinisch, Dean of the College of Education Concordia University-Portland, studies indicate that high-quality classrooms environments help increase students’ self-esteem, allowing them to feel safe and motivated.

However, Portage High School has started a new policy in West that states teachers are not allowed to decorate their classrooms without the permission of the administration.

“The [new] policy is talking about keeping the collaboration and education happening,” said Dean of Students Tim Kunstek. “It’s supposed to be free flowing, where teachers can move throughout their mods and collaborate with other classrooms.”

While there are not many restrictions on the policy, Portage High School wants to keep the newly constructed part of A hall “moderate and uniform” as possible.

“We are trying to have all teachers follow the flow of keeping the collaborative learning environment open and uniform,” Kunstek said.

The policy was initially designed by the school board and administrative team.

“[The policy is] not a Mr. Gill thing, Mr. Stills, or Mr. K thing,” Kunstek said. “The school board and the superintendent wanted an open concept and collaboration. Kids learn in different ways and we needed to be flexible with how we present learning.”

With the new policy in effect, teachers are finding it difficult to express themselves.

“I feel like teachers enjoy expressing their personality through classroom decorations,” said Jennifer Poncin, a chemistry teacher at Portage High School. “[But with the new policy] we have to find other ways to show our students who we are.”

Some teachers think the policy is beneficial, while others think the policy interrupts the students learning process.

“I understand the policy was put in place to preserve the integrity of the building,” said Biology teacher Scott Krause. “At some point, they are going to have to accept the fact that eventually everything breaks down. The policy does hinder the educational process, because there are things like the periodic table that would be nice to put up in the classroom to help the students. But we can’t due to the policy.”

Although teachers have not yet decorated their classrooms, some have already found solutions to the new policy.

“I think there may be a way around the policy,” Krause said. “In order to preserve the walls, we could use double-sided tape or putty.”

Although it may take a few trial and errors over the next couple of months, there is hope one day the school board, teachers, and the administrators will find a commonground.