MV vs. Irondale

MV students shadow at Irondale

Amy Binder, Staff Reporter

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Tensions often run high between Irondale and Mounds View, the two high schools in the Mounds View School District. After hearing jokes made at Irondale’s expense about the drugs, gangs and poor academic performance, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. On Oct. 9 at 8:20, I arrived at Irondale High School to experience the daily life of an Irondale student for myself.

The Irondale student I shadowed for the day, Lauren Letnes, 12, met me at the door with a Bru House coffee and a friendly smile. The first detail I noticed about Irondale was the high ceilings in every classroom and hallway. Of course, it was also hard not to notice the sea of maroon and gold sweatshirts; it was clear from the moment I stepped inside that I was no longer at Mounds View. 

Lauren led me through the hallways of Irondale, pointing out key locations and areas of the school amidst the sounds of construction and chattering students. Irondale’s diverse student body was apparent through signs advertising student clubs like Africa Club, Bible Study, Black Student Union, Christian Fellowship Club, Girls’ Club, Latino Club and Muslim Student Association. As we walked toward the administrative wing, Lauren told me that construction on the main entrance has shifted the bus and parent drop-off zone to a side door outside the gym hallway. The office area had just been remodeled, and the vibrant blue paint, fresh carpeting and open office space with large glass windows reminded me of Mounds View’s new administrative offices. She also identified freshman hall, where the freshmen hang out in the mornings by their lockers, and senior hall, where the senior lockers are. Irondale students tend to gravitate towards certain hallways to spend time with friends in the morning, whereas Mounds View students gather in places like the commons and the ILC. The lockers at Irondale are slightly wider than the ones at Mounds View and stacked two high in each hallway.

I shadowed at Irondale a week after their homecoming, which was evident from the hallways decorated with the remnants of tissue paper and posters for sports teams. Unlike Mounds View, multiple clubs at Irondale are involved in homecoming planning; although Student Council plans the dance and organizes homecoming royalty nomination, DECA runs the homecoming showcase, a talent show with performances by the homecoming royalty.

Lauren’s first class of the day was AP Statistics. A substitute teacher passed out a thick packet of problems on scatterplots, least squares regression lines and calculating errors. With the disdain of substitute teachers universal to students, Lauren’s table in the back participated in an impressive variety of activities: debating the likelihood of the soccer teams winning their sections games, comparing their AP Calculus 2 grades and shopping online for shoes. 

Students perked up at the sound of the bell but soon deflated againthe bells were set to the wrong schedule. Knight Time, the Irondale equivalent of ReFLECT, typically takes place on Wednesdays but did not on the day I shadowed because of the shortened week. I was quickly familiarized with the Mounds View-esque AirPod culture at Irondale during passing time; more students in the hallway were listening to music through their AirPods than not.

Next, we walked to Lauren’s TA hour for ARCC Biology. Each classroom at Irondale has a painting above the door; ARCC Biology’s sign featured green leaves and the word “biology” in yellow paint. The walls of Irondale also feature several large murals, including a painting of Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech in senior hall.

The class was taking a test, so we left to explore the media center. To my surprise, Lauren asked the teacher for a pass to leave the classroom. Students at Irondale must have a pass to leave class at any time, even for trips to the bathroom or lockers, and the activities director monitors the hallways outside the cafeteria to ensure that students do not roam the hallways during lunch. Once we got to the media center, Lauren explained that free hours are much rarer at Irondale than they are at Mounds View. Most free hours are not approved unless the student takes an online class or TAs, so the media center is rarely used throughout the day and students must check in with their ID numbers as they enter. Although Irondale’s policies may appear strict to Mounds View students, Lauren believes that they are fair. “It’s strict because of the way kids acted when it wasn’t strict,” Lauren said. We sat at a familiar-looking high table with chairs similar to the furniture in the Mounds View commons.

We found our way to third hour ARCC College Writing through a labyrinth of hallways off one of two main hallways running parallel to each other. These hallways connect the second and third floors with a ramp, one on each side of the building. According to Lauren, one of the ramps was under construction until the day before I shadowed, causing major congestion in the remaining hallway. The ARCC College Writing class completed a reflection on the personal narratives they wrote the previous week as the teacher introduced the next project: writing a persuasive essay with an infographic. He also walked the class through answering critical-thinking questions on an article about gun violence in video games. Throughout the day, I noticed that fewer Irondale students bring their own laptops to school than Mounds View students; only a few people in each class used personal computers.

Students got feedback on their résumés and prepared for mock interviews during Advanced Marketing. The class discussed the job skills Generation Z lacks in the workforce and how students can overcome these challenges when they work and intern in the future. I attribute their enthusiastic engagement to the cinnamon bread, pumpkin pastries and fruit cups provided in the back of the room. After four long classes, everyone, including me, was ready for lunch. A, B and C lunches at Mounds View correspond to first, second and third lunches at Irondale. Business Management took third lunch, and I headed off to the cafeteria with Lauren and her friends.

The cafeteria at Irondale looks similar to the one at Mounds View, but it’s decked out in maroon instead of Mounds View’s characteristic dark green. Although the lunch menu at Irondale is nearly identical to Mounds View’s, Irondale has yet to switch over to Hangry Bear pizza like Mounds View did earlier this year. Just like Mounds View, however, the most popular entrée at Irondale is popcorn chicken on Wednesdays, closely followed by taco in a bag on alternating Tuesdays. I found one of Irondale’s surprisingly few water fountains in the corner of the cafeteria and filled up my water bottle before doing my best to answer the most burning questions about Mounds View from Lauren’s friends.

Lauren’s health class was in the basement with the gyms and weight room. The class watched a video about the connection between uncontrollable anger and activation of the frontal cortex, but students were more focused on the upcoming assignment: the Phone Detox. Students were challenged to either turn off their phones for 24 hours and automatically get an A on the next test or take the unit test like normal. As students lined up one by one to report their decision to the teacher, tensions flew sky-high at Lauren’s table. One student questioned her ability to finish the challenge while Lauren herself worried that she would not be able to aux on the car ride to Olive Garden for a team dinner that night. The third student at the table gave up before the end of the hour and turned his phone back on. I heard the detox referenced many times throughout the day by current health students and survivors of the challenge alike.

The beginning of sixth hour was interrupted by the daily announcements. Although the Student Council representative’s sign-off did not include an upbeat “it’s a great day to be a Mustang” or “have a Mustang-tastic day,” I recognized the steady stream of sports updates and school-wide news from typical second hour announcements at Mounds View. Lauren’s 15-student physics class followed along with the teacher as she described how to find the position and acceleration of a car from a velocity graph.

At the final bell, I joined the swarm of students leaving Irondale and walked to the side street lined with buses. Unlike the end-of-the-day congestion Mounds View experiences, Irondale hallways remain relatively clear because students leave through multiple entrances instead of one main door. My drug-free and gang-free journey at Irondale was ending, but Lauren’s day at Mounds View was just beginning. Check out mvviewer.org for a broadcast episode highlighting the experiences of Irondale students at Mounds View.

Still curious? Watch this broadcast to learn more about MV Viewer’s shadowing project!

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