The building at 1617 N. 24th St. is known to many Boiseans as the Booth Home. It was built by the Salvation Army in 1921 and initially served as a small hospital and home for unwed mothers. In 1963, it became a high school, and in 2002, it was renamed in honor of longtime instructor Marian Pritchett. It operates in a unique partnership between the Salvation Army and Boise Independent School District and has seen hundreds of girls—and a few boys—graduate.
"Being a parent and having a kid has made me look at more things with depth," said new graduate and father Austin Preston. "Everything I do, I want to make sure [my son] has what he needs."
Preston dropped out of school but, soon after learning he was going to be a father, opted to resume his studies at Marian Pritchett. Now that he has his diploma, Preston is planning to begin an apprenticeship to become an electrician.
Another recent graduate, Elizabeth Heist, is in the process of earning her CNA certification. She is due to give birth this summer.
"[When you become pregnant], you lose your friends, you lose your family members. They won't talk to you anymore, but it's kind of crazy," Heist said. "Just because this happened, it doesn't mean I'm any less of a person. It just means I have a different path than I thought I was going to have."
Heist's and Preston's class is among the last to graduate from the North End location of Marian Pritchett before the doors open on a new facility.
The Salvation Army is currently in the process of fundraising for the project, planned to get underway in September 2019 near Emerald Street and Maple Grove Road. The new school will expand the capacity of Marian Pritchett from around 50 students to 125, and from 80 to 100 newborns. The Salvation Army helps the school provide on-site child care for its students.
"The sky is really the limit for the new facility," said Salvation Army Boise Corps Officer Major Rhonda Lloyd. "We have big dreams for how we can serve the community."
The project is expected to cost $11 million, with $8.5 million raised by community fundraising—currently, the Salvation Army has pulled together $5.3 million. In order to break ground, Lloyd said they need to reach a $6.2 million threshold and, once they do, they will put the 24th Street building on the market.
"Of course, it's very difficult to leave that area, but we are not able to do what we need to do on that campus," said Lloyd. "The neighborhood has given feedback that indicates they do not want us to do some of the things typical for Salvation Army to do."
Those "typical" things include feeding and providing shelter for people in need.
"We simply can't enlarge on that site, so, unfortunately, we are needing to sell the property to fund the next property to keep going," Lloyd said.
Meanwhile, some people are worried about preserving the historic 1921 building once the school moves. The board of the North End Neighborhood Association surveyed 215 citizens—the majority living in the North End—from January 30 to March 4, asking what kind of infrastructure they would like to see on the Marian Pritchett School lot. The data showed 82 percent of those surveyed believe the building should be preserved.
"We must begin planning now for how best to utilize the Site's potential," NENA stated in a letter to Lloyd, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and members of the Boise City Council.
"Obviously, there is a strong desire in the community to preserve it," said NENA Board Member Stephen Miller. "What often happens in Boise is there will be a developer that comes in with a specific plan and, by the time that plan is generated, it is set in stone for the most part. We are trying to get ahead of that."
Lloyd said the Salvation Army is "not opposed" to the building becoming a historical landmark, but added, "We need to get every dollar we can out of that building to fund the next building."
"Every dollar we get goes back into the community and we simply do not have the funding to hold back that piece of property or to keep it going as a museum," she said.
In response to the letter, Bieter said the City Council "cannot sanction those processes or outcomes at this time, however once the property has been sold we will certainly advise the new owner that a cooperative engagement process with NENA will be the key to successful development. We appreciate NENA's interest in being involved in the planning process for this property. However, planning for private property cannot be a unilateral exercise that does not include the landowner. We have spoken with Salvation Army, and they have discussed that their intent at this time is to sell the property as it is currently zoned. Salvation Army has decided to leave the public planning process in the hands of the future buyer since they will no longer be the owner of this property."
Miller said NENA will be hosting a "visioning exercise" to open the discussion to more of the community in the next couple months. Interested individuals can contact the NENA at email@example.com.
Regardless of the outcome of the valued property, Marian Pritchett head teacher and site administrator Deborah Hedden-Nicely said the original North End location will be missed.
"It's quiet. It's confidential to the students. This building—even though it is falling down—has great memories for all of us," she said. "It's non-institutional. The smallness, the intimacy—it will all be missed."