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Midvale Journal

Voters approve $283 million bond to improve schools; construction expected by June

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest Principal Greg Leavitt stands by a conceptual look of the rebuilt Hillcrest High School. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Hillcrest High School student body president Boston Iacobazzi has bittersweet feelings when he thinks what will become of his alma mater in June 2018, when it will be in the process of being rebuilt.

“I’m a little sad, but with all the problems of bats, leaks and cracks, students will have a much better learning environment to help them excel in the future,” he said, adding that his sister, Brooke, who is a sophomore, will benefit from phases of the new building.

Boston’s high school is one of several that will be completely rebuilt or renovated, thanks to voters who in November approved a $283 tax-neutral million bond to modernize and upgrade Canyons School District schools.

“The initial recommendation by the administration is to begin with the high schools,” Superintendent Jim Briscoe said. “The rationale is that construction costs will increase significantly every year, so we’re fiscally more responsible to work on these projects first. Plus, they will impact more students initially and in the years to come.”

Both 55-year-old Hillcrest and 48-year-old Brighton in Cottonwood Heights will be completely rebuilt, said Canyons School District Business Administrator Leon Wilcox, who added that the goal of the projects at all the high schools will be to have little disruption to students, who will remain onsite during construction.

Wilcox said construction is scheduled to begin by summer and will be done in phases. Hillcrest already has the architectural firm of FFKR and the construction crew of Westland in place.

“When we get the green light to start, we’ll be ready and set to go,” Leavitt said, adding that initial thoughts are to possibly begin with the gymnasium.

He said the design of the building will run more north to south rather than west to east and the five-year-old STEM building will remain intact.

Both Hillcrest and Brighton are looking at improvements in the performing arts areas and auditoriums as well as extending athletic facilities, including possibly adding field houses to the campus, Wilcox said.

“We are still in the preliminary stage and in discussion with school plans, but we’re exploring ideas and costs and trying to find better ways to serve our students,” he said. “ We want to bring more high-tech learning to our schools. Currently, there is no infrastructure at Hillcrest to support 21st-century learning.”

Leavitt said that the current building is a “beautiful school and has served us well, but we’re not the same kids that we were in 1962 or ’78 or ’90. We need more mobile technology we can support in all the classrooms, a camera system above lab tables in science rooms, and all the sophisticated looks of an academic school. We want it to be more open and collaborative and have lots of light, backlit LCDs, an upgraded arts facility and an athletic facility that fits all our programs and needs,” he said. 

Hillcrest is estimated to cost $85 million. Leavitt said the plans are for students to be studying in the completely new building by fall 2021.

Brighton, estimated at $87 million, also has plans to be built in phases, possibly beginning with a new auditorium, said Principal Tom Sherwood.

Improved floor plans for better collaboration and natural light are important factors as well, he said.

“People say our building is just fine, but it was built in the 1960s before the internet and teacher collaboration was seen as an important thing,” Sherwood said. 

Alta High in Sandy also has conceptual renderings of the third phase of its remodel of the 1978 building, said Principal Brian McGill, who said that much of this estimated $38.5 project will focus on a new auditorium and performing arts areas as well as athletic updates.

McGill also said the school needs to update its infrastructure and overhaul its heating, air conditioning and plumbing.

“We want to hold town hall meetings and hear what all our stakeholders have to say,” he said, adding that he already has talked with a group of 30 students, the School Community Council and Parent-Teacher-Student Association about the bond prior to it passing with 57 percent of the vote.

At Corner Canyon High in Draper, an estimated $4.5 million of the bond is earmarked to add 16 classrooms to the east side of the building and remove the current 12 portables that serve students, Wilcox said, adding that construction will take place during the summer of 2018 and 2019.

Wilcox said that improving lighting in 18 elementaries and new offices in six elementary schools will take place during summers of 2018 and 2019, but no decision has been made to the timeline of rebuilding 60-year-old Midvalley Elementary, 53-year-old Peruvian Park Elementary in Sandy, 49-year-old Union Middle School and an yet-to-be-determined White City elementary as well as building a new elementary in Draper.

Briscoe said that when Canyons District was first established, engineers and others compiled a list of projects needing to be completed. The first bond addressed 13 of those needs and this bond will address additional projects, he said.

Leavitt said a new Hillcrest High School will help the Midvale community.

“I’m absolutely thankful the bond passed,” he said. “I hope people see that it not only motivates our students and teachers with better methods of learning, but it helps the community, the businesses and the economy. When the community shows an interest in our students, they will show it back to the community.”