The newly-minted North Fork Miners will sport black and red beginning this fall at the combined Hotchkiss/Paonia High School. The change in name, mascot, colors and location comes after decades of fans cheering for the Hotchkiss Bulldogs and the Paonia Eagles.
“This next item is a true celebration as we move forward,” said Delta County School District Superintendent Caryn Gibson prior to announcing the new name, mascot and colors at the April 15 school board meeting.
Assistant Superintendent Kurt Clay gave the play-by-play on how the naming committee made up of 10 students from each school, 10 community members and five teachers came to its final decision before the North Fork community and students cast their final votes.
Clay said the naming committee was asked to narrow down 395 responses to 3-5 names, mascots and colors. The three finalists were presented at a school board work session on April 8. The voting then went back out to both students and community members.
“Tonight, I am here to present that particular vote and survey,” Clay told the school board.
Among the final voting choices were North Fork High School, Fire Mountain High School and West Elk High School. Mascot finalist were Wolves, Outlaws and Miners. The color choices were Black and Red, Red and Grey, Navy and Red, or Black and Teal.
Clay told the board that the district received 899 community responses on the new school name, mascot and color choices.
“You can see that overwhelming the North Fork High School Miners was the one that won and was the highest rated in the community vote,” Clay said, adding that the community also chose the Black and Red color scheme.
The student response was much less at 273 votes despite going out to every fifth through 11th grade student.
“We emailed all of them specifically. I know that at the junior high, K-8 they went over it all together and did it as classes ... I know that they announced it multiple times in the high school for those students to vote,” Clay said. “We were a little disappointed that we didn’t get 100% to vote. There should have been around 550 to 580 votes.”
Favorites amongst the students were West Elk Outlaws and Fire Mountain Outlaws with Black and Teal being the number one color choice.
Working through the point system, Clay said the community vote showed the North Fork Miners was first followed by the North Fork Wolves. The point system was also applied to the student vote and by combining both the community and student vote (minus the bonus points for students) the outcome favored the North Fork Miners with second place North Fork Wolves.
“We told the students that they would get a 75% piece of that (vote) so, we multiplied it by three, in other words every student vote counted as three and every community vote counted as one,” Clay said.
Despite the added bonus, the North Fork Miners still prevailed over the student’s West Elk Outlaws by 206 votes. Second place was North Fork Wolves followed by West Elk Outlaws.
As for the school colors, the community selected Black and Red followed by Red and Grey. Clay said community members voiced in the comment section that they wanted to bring over colors from both high schools. The student population, however, went a completely different route choosing Black and Teal followed by Black and Red.
The combined community and student choice (without the student bonus) was Black and Red. With the multiplier of three, Black and Teal gained but still came in second by a mere six points.
Following the presentation Ron Germann motioned to follow the recommendation of the students and community by adopting the name North Fork High School, with the mascot Miners and the school colors Black and Red. The motion was seconded by Linda Ewing who said it was important to follow the vote of the students and community.
“We all have our personal preference, but I am here to hear the voice (of the community). I am sure people are going to disagree and I understand but I feel confident in the process that we went through ... I don’t know how else you could do it,” added school board vice-president Dan Burke.
School board president Jan Tuin said while the choice wasn’t his favorite, the data showed the will of the people.
“This is a tremendous, historical event and it makes me emotional,” Gibson said following the unanimous vote of the school board. “We are committed to supporting and getting that school together and doing the best for all kids in Delta County.”
With both schools facing their final graduations as separate schools, Gibson said the focus will be to honor the schools and then move forward with the consolidation in the fall.
“We want to celebrate those Hotchkiss Bulldogs and Paonia Eagles ... we just want to honor them during graduation,” Gibson said.