What Doesn’t Come Out of Those High School Lockers
Binders, Notebooks and Pencils … Oh My!
Jayden Vanaman meticulously recorded the contents of student lockers at Chugiak High School last Friday, May 19.
The sophomore was part of an after-school crew serving detention for excessive tardies that spent their allotted time sentence helping school administrator’s finish off the collection of what other students left behind: All those binders, notebooks, papers, pens and clothing items still sitting in the lockers long after the final bell at 2 p.m.
“I write down the locker number,” he explained to the ECHO News as one of the school’s vice principals escorted this reporter through the hallways. “I document what is in the locker: the actual belongings.”
Vanaman’s work was part of an effort to make sure that the belongings of students that may have been out sick that final Friday of the school year don’t lose their stuff, Rodger Nichols, the CHS vice principal in charge of student services, explained.
In recent years, Anchorage School District officials have made an increased effort at preventing students from just dumping the contents of lockers in the trash without consideration of what items could be recycled or repurposed.
Last Friday, as Nicholls walked the halls with this reporter, he also kept a watch over the flurry of items going from lockers to a series of trash bins and recycling bins stationed throughout the CHS hallway system.
“We encourage the students to not throw things away,” he said as he fished a couple of sweatshirt jackets out of one of the bins and handed them to a student with instructions to deliver them to the lost and found in the attendance office.
Just minutes before, Taylor Leonard, a junior, had pulled the sweatshirt jackets out of her locker and tossed them in the circular trash bin.
“These are destroyed,” she told one of her friends who watched.
In years past, the annual locker clean-out day has produced an interesting inventory.
Food left in lockers turned science experiments gone bad is the stuff locker clean-out legends are made of, Nicholls admits when asked about the discovery of forgotten lunches and snacks.
But not so much anymore.
District officials have gotten wise to that one, he said.
“We keep a close tab on that during the school year,” he said.
Of course, the stench would give it away, he said, noting that some students have opted to use vanilla food flavoring to cover the smell.
The most common locker mess found these days is the pile of long ago graded school work that students often are encouraged to keep just in case it did not make the teacher’s grade book.
Such was the case for Max Hartke, a sophomore, who gathered a substantial stack of papers dating back to fall 2016.
“Some of this, I totally forgot about,” he said.
What he did remember was that his mom likes to see it.
“Yeah, she organizes it and put it in a scrapbook,” he said.
Caitlyn Ford, also a sophomore, took much longer than her counterparts to break down the locker she had this school year.
“I just don’t throw anything away,” she said with a laugh. “I keep it all year and it just goes to the bottom of the locker in a crumpled pile.”
Ford’s locker typifies that of the high school female: The mandatory mirror at eye level so she can easily and quickly check her appearance between classes, the endless photos of herself with friends, several sets of removable shelves installed and posters on the outside commemorating the activities of the past school year. From her participation in fall’s football cheer program to the winter’s stunt cheer team and the school choir’s performance of the musical, “Bye, Bye Birdie,” the exterior of Ford’s locker read like a series of high school hieroglyphics. The interior of the locker door had an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper documenting the number of pushups done by the football cheerleaders for scoring by the CHS Mustangs gridiron boys. The lyrics to the song, “Night of Silence,” also remained posted there.
“Nobody could remember the words,” she admitted. “So we had them printed out.”
A bit of sadness came across her face as she was asked how she felt about taking down a year’s worth of memorabilia.
There will be next year, she conceded.
That is the same thought Sam Strickland had as he looked through the contents of a forgotten binder from last fall.
“School supplies I never used,” he said as he showed off the contents. “From classes I don’t have now. Guess I can use them next year.”
Editor’s Note: I will admit a keen fascination with the content of a high school lockers since 2007 when my daughter, Denise, an Eagle River High School graduate, emptied out her locker and the contents looked more like that of a small boutique instead based on the number of belts, jeans, shirts and shoes plus make-up items and jewelry amongst the unused notebooks and unopened packs of No. 2 pencils. Love you Denisey!