Skip to main content

Midvale Journal

Groundbreaking set to replace 61-year-old school

Mar 27, 2019 02:33PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Midvalley Elementary is not looking too bad for 61, according to custodian Jim Sheeley. But like the new American toy of 1957, the Frisbee, it is starting to show its age.

With Midvalley being the oldest school in Canyons School District, it was selected as the first elementary school to be constructed from the rebuild list created for the 2017 $283 million, voter-approved bond, said Leon Wilcox, Canyons School District business manager and chief financial officer.

While Sheeley’s heart may be with the trees near the school entrance he once watered with 5-gallon buckets when there wasn’t a sprinkler system, he also can tell tales of fighting rusted galvanized pipes, refinishing floors to remove “20 years of built up wax” until carpeting went in, and nursing the “Great Dragon,” a nickname given to the school’s boiler, until it finally quit in 2015.

“We’ve had steam and water leaks, replaced tile, dealt with asbestos, and even found a tin can of crackers dated back to 1965 in the bomb shelter,” said Midvalley’s 36-year veteran custodian. “I’ve been here through earthquakes and she moans a little, but she doesn’t shake. This building is like a good ol’ friend.”

Still, Principal Tamra Baker said it’s time.

“It takes a lot to keep this 61-year-old building alive,” she said. “It’s at a critical need at this point.”

Wilcox said the school building was not built to seismic standards and there are Americans with Disabilities Act issues that are “problematic and not easily solved.” One, Baker said, is that the ramp to the school is not located near the office, so those needing access to the building, need to ring a doorbell at another door for entrance into the school.

Wilcox said those factors plus the fact that the construction crews can build on the front (south) field with little disruption to classes made it a reasonable option to be first on the rebuild list.

Groundbreaking for the new school building will be at 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 16, on the school grounds, 217 E. 7800 South, with a reception beforehand. Students will sing, shovels of dirt will turn, and both current and former students and faculty can reminisce and celebrate together.

“We just celebrated our 60th birthday and I learned one of the first fundraisers was people would go deer hunting, bring back the hides and sell them. It’s not the norm today; I was fascinated to hear and see all the stories of the school in the late 1950s,” Baker said.

The new school, which is expected to be completed for the 2020-21 school year, will have a history wall near the entrance, honoring former students and faculty with pictures and memorabilia.

“We’ve had a community who have been supporters of education for years and this is a way we can keep the memory alive,” said Baker, who also said there will be a time capsule with the new building. “I hope this groundbreaking day will be one students will keep in their memory. They’re so excited about a new school and have a fascination with big machinery. It’s been in the works for months and months, but it is going to be real to them when they see the construction tape and see it built before their eyes.”

Baker also is sure that “our extremely creative teachers will tie in the real-world experience” of witnessing the building of a new school in their curriculum for students. Another opportunity for students is to use their creative juices to help write a school song.

“We don’t have a school song, so one of the goals is to sing it at the ribbon-cutting when we open the new building. We have some (community) musicians who are willing to help with it,” she said.

The new school also will help house students from growth occurring in west Midvale as it will be built for 800 students, Wilcox said.

The current enrollment is 435 students. Baker said the new building will be the largest elementary in Canyons School District in terms of square feet at 85,000.

“Our school will help absorb the growth we know we’ll have in Midvale,” Baker said. “It’s up to the (Canyons) Board (of Education) to determine which students will come here, but they will be welcome.”

The plans for the new spacious, two-story school include a safety vestibule entrance in addition to clear view of entrances and exits and a perimeter road to allow emergency responders access to the building.

One feature Baker appreciates is the classrooms.

“I love the fact that every classroom is the same, with natural light, technology, a sink with a drinking fountain, storage, space for learning. It gives every student a great learning space,” she said, adding that kindergarten rooms include a kiva, ADA bathrooms, cubbies and other needs for the youngsters.

In addition to the classrooms, with ADA restrooms near each grade and drinking fountains with water bottle filling stations, the plans include collaborative spaces as well as a small kiva for teaching.

“It allows us lots of flexibility for teaching and learning as well as looks to the future and what needs may be,” Baker said. “It gives us space to be productive.”

Throughout the building, which will use school colors of red, white and blue, in addition to shades of teal, green and gray, there will be large skylights, a multi-purpose room for lunch and inside gym and power towers for electronic devices.

“We won’t have a stand-alone computer lab. We are at a one to one student to device ratio in third through fifth grades and working toward it in K (kindergarten) through second. We want technology where our students are, so they will take devices with them and there will be power towers to allow them to plug in, keep powered up,” Baker said. 

With the new building, the school plans to house a new preschool, which can use the extensive kindergarten playground that will be constructed in the front of the school. Head Start, which has rented space from the school, will be located at another site, Baker said.

“I’m excited for the new school. It will have a classic, timeless look that will be very beautiful,” she said.

NJRA Architects designed the building with input from teachers, students and the community and held a preliminary preview of the school last fall.