The smokestack at Rincon/University High School is the school's identifying landmark. The smokestack is believed to be part of an incinerator that was once used to burn the school's garbage.


Although Rincon High School Principal Catherine Comstock doesn't like to think of her school as odd, it's tough to deny its quirks.

For one, the school features a smokestack that, right now, doubles as a cell-phone tower.

Also, the school's campus is not entirely its own. Rincon students share facilities, as well as activities, sports teams and a cafeteria, with University High School, an advanced college prep school. Of the students who roam the halls, 1,062 are Rincon students, while 930 belong to University. The schools have different principals.

Built in 1958, the school's central location - 421 N. Arcadia Ave., near East Fifth Street and North Swan Road - puts it in high demand. Rincon started the semester with 150 students on its waiting list, Comstock said.

Those who spend a lot of time on campus tend not to think too much about the smokestack, which becomes part of the background.

"It's just there - part of the historical fixtures of the school," said Comstock, who believes the smokestack is part of an incinerator that once burned the school's trash. She doesn't know when it was last used for that purpose.

"Most schools have incinerators," Comstock said. "I've been principal at three different schools, and all three had places in the building that were used to burn trash. I've never seen one quite as distinctive as this one."

One company that took notice of the smokestack was AT&T, which has rented the structure since 1997, turning it into a cellphone tower. The company changed course, though, and plans to remove its equipment from the smokestack.

AT&T spokesman Scott Huscher said the company is moving the tower because the smokestack doesn't support its new 4G LTE technology.

The company will replace an existing light pole on campus with a new light pole that will also serve as a cell tower. Supporting electronic equipment will be affixed to a new storage unit it's providing, paying $13,000 annually. Rincon and University will share those funds.

Thus, the smokestack - long since stripped of its original purpose - is being phased out once again. Comstock said it will stand as something of an emblem to the school, even though it "really doesn't flow" with the rest of the architecture. She said she likes that the school's name is emblazoned on the structure.

"It's really cool," she said.

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