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Midvale Journal

Staff, faculty preview new Midvale Middle School

Jul 25, 2017 11:10AM ● By Julie Slama

The new Midvale Middle School is expected to be completed this summer and open to about 750 students this fall. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

When hall monitor and school store coordinator Leann Gilchrest walked in the dusty cement hallways and rooms filled with construction materials of the new Midvale Middle School, she was overjoyed.

“I am so excited to see the openness of the school — to see out the windows and see mountains,” she said. “It’s soothing and relaxing. There’s classroom wings for each grade level, as well as areas for the entire student body with geometrical shapes within the structure that blends bits of our old school with the new one. It’s like school community itself, bits and pieces blending together.”

The red brick structure, with its bright splashes of paint and design, reflects Midvale’s ethnically diverse and industrial, working class roots, said VCBO Architecture Associate Brian Peterson. 

“We took from the school theme, ‘strength in unity,’ and used that as a common value and nucleus in building the school,” he said. “It’s individual pieces coming together to make a whole just like the student body itself.”

Gilchrest and Peterson are referring to the combination of multiple ethnicities attending the middle school, including students from the neighborhood and those who commute to the school to prepare for the challenge of attending nearby Hillcrest High’s international baccalaureate program.

This summer, the 210,000-square-foot building is undergoing finishing touches to prepare for the 750 students who will be attending the new school in the fall. 

“To design a building for 50 years is pretty hard when you consider the previous building was built before there were smartphones or laptops and they couldn’t know what technology would be needed. So, we tried to be flexible with a building that could move with the times and be adaptable for what the future may hold,” Peterson said.

The groundbreaking for the new school was held June 11, 2015 with about 150 current, former and future students, teachers and administrators joining city and school officials who also said farewell to the former 62-year-old Midvale Middle building, which was torn down to give room to the new school. The past two years, students have been attending school in the former Crescent View Middle School building in Sandy.

The new building, with its highlights of red, orange, yellow and green offices and hallways, got rave reviews from staff and faculty who got their first looks inside as the school year ended.

“It’s amazing,” said Janie Canals. “It took the heritage from our school and brought it into the next century. The architects were able to mimic the feel of the old school to fit that of our community, but at the same time, embrace the future for our students.”

Peterson said the school was designed to be a resource for the entire community, with the use of a 40-foot atrium and catering kitchen that can be used for community events, as well as its fields for neighborhood sports teams.

The atrium also can be doubled for teacher professional development trainings as well as a green room for television production classroom as broadcast controls and a green wall are in an accompanying room.

Upon entering the building through the front entryway under a large M sign, students enter into a spacious commons, with administrative offices are on the left and the state-of-the-art 680-seat auditorium decorated in school colors of gray and maroon on the right. In the entryway will be the former school sign as well as display cases holding school memorabilia.

The performing arts wing has several practice rooms for ensembles or soloists to practice as well as multiple storage units for instruments. 

Classrooms are divided into three wings, one wing for each grade, housing the core subjects of math, language arts, social studies and science. Within each wing, there is a space for collaboration amongst classes and “will allow more flexibility with our teaching,” said Principal Wendy Dau. Each wing is trimmed in contrasting colors — orange, yellow and green — to signify the grade level.

There is an area devoted to Career and Technology Education classrooms, with laboratories as well as classrooms for students to explore subject areas from foods, carpentry, engineering, 2- and 3-dimensional art and business.

Above the entry on the second level, the library and computer lab has a view of the Wasatch Mountains and is “open and inviting,” Dau said. 

In addition to the lab, there will be 13 Chromebook carts, each with 35 devices to a cart, an iPad lab, two computer labs and a business lab with desktop computers. 

“Technology has been a major issue with our teachers and there wasn’t enough in our old building so now we have more than doubled it. As part of a grant, in the next few years, we should have a one-to-one ratio for Chromebooks for our seventh-graders,” she said.

The media center is spacious as a place where students can gather, Peterson said.

“We learned that students wanted a place to hang out as well as work on projects and we took that into account,” he said. “There’s even a reading nook right over the entryway.”

The gymnasium, which has an indoor track above basketball courts, has a separate dance room and a fitness room, which could be used as a weight room. In addition, a health room is adjacent to the gymnasium.

Special education will be offered in two cluster units with a quiet room and conference room.

The cafeteria is spacious and has an outdoor commons area in back of the school. Students can choose from five different food lines then have a view of the Oquirrh Mountains while eating. 

Throughout the school will be pictures with biographies of prominent leaders in various fields, a gift from VCBO Architecture firm.

“The heroes on the wall will be people of all different walks of life, different ethnicities, fields and abilities,” he said. “We’ll have Don Lind, Julia Child, Malala Yousafzai, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Marie Curry, Katherine Johnson, Stephen Hawking and others who have made an impact on our world and hope that students can relate and aspire to be like them.”

The $38-million school building is part of the $250 million tax-rate-neutral bond voters approved in spring 2010. Several other school buildings including Midvale and Butler elementaries, Corner Canyon High School as well as Albion, Butler, Mt. Jordan and Draper Park middle schools have been built from the same bond.