Union Middle students begin online while new school construction finishesSep 08, 2023 12:11PM ● By Julie Slama
In July, crews were working to clear the old Union Middle School as the new school building was being constructed to the east of it. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
Retired Union Middle School teachers Allen Richardson and Michael Goodwin saw each other May 16 when they said goodbye to the school where they both had worked. They planned to meet up again at the new Union Middle in August once it was constructed, but that reunion is on hold as the school isn’t quite ready.
Instead, Union Middle sixth- through eighth-grade students will start the school year with online classes Aug. 21 for about two weeks. Starting with remote learning will provide crews enough time to substantially finish the 219,000-square-foot school rebuild at 615 E. 8000 South, said Leon Wilcox, Canyons School District’s business administrator and chief financial officer.
“We’re working like crazy to get Union finished,” Wilcox said. “The main thing is inside, we’re trying to get all the electrical done, those sprinkler heads for fire suppression, and tying that into the fire alarm system. There’s a big shortage right now in qualified electricians so our general contractor is pulling electricians off other jobs trying to get this done for us. Then, the fire marshal will go through his testing.”
Union Middle families can check out Chromebooks and are given access to free Wi-Fi. A temporary learning site is available for Union Middle’s accommodated core classroom and extended core classrooms.
Previously scheduled before- and after-school activities are postponed.
The two-week delay will give crews the opportunity to finish the media center as well as the kitchen. With the postponement of in-person learning, the kitchen’s electrical work is expected to be finished, which means students wouldn’t be starting off with paper bag lunches, he said.
Wilcox said crews are trying to ensure the school will open for the students and be a safe, welcoming environment.
“I was over there the other day and there were 200 men and women not only working on the fire system, but also trying to clean up everything — washing the windows, dusting off the millwork, installing furniture and things of that nature. It all goes back to the labor shortage that started way back, when there weren’t enough workers who supply materials like the concrete we needed when we were working on Peruvian Park and Glacier Hills. The same thing happened at Union with that back up, and then, coupled with the weather last winter, it slowed down construction,” he said.
Other schools have used the former Crescent View Middle School to house students during rebuilds, but Wilcox said that virtual learning gives them an immediate alternative rather than getting that former school ready and redirecting school bus routes.
The ribbon-cutting for the school has been changed to a grand opening on Sept. 6 for the community.
Once school is in person, other areas, including the 600-seat auditorium, are expected to be done by early winter, he said.
The entire school project—building, design and equipment—totals $62 million, Wilcox said, which was made possible through the $283-million bond measure approved by CSD voters in 2017.
Richardson, who taught English, reading and art history at Union from 1974 through 2004, said there were many fond memories with the old school building.
“We teachers would fight over fans. The cooling system wasn’t very good here. I can see why they’re replacing it for nothing more than heating and cooling. I had my own fan, and I was the envy of many teachers until they got their own,” he said. “Seriously, it was really a good experience working here. Each year got better. My last year was my best; I finally learned how to do it after learning little tricks over the years.”
Richardson added, “By and large, students were well behaved. I have some really good memories, but I’d have to say, my worst student of all time became my best and he’s still in touch with me.”
Goodwin started teaching at Union when he was 25 in 1973. He taught English, French, art and American history for 25 years and, in 1998, he went to Mt. Jordan Middle.
Much of the structure of building looked unchanged, but the inside was remodeled since it was first constructed in 1968, he said.
“All these rooms used to be pods with removable walls,” Goodwin said. “You could have four classrooms, you could have two big classrooms, you can have one classroom and that was the greatest thing. The walls, when they were put together, were soundproof so you didn’t hear anything from other rooms. We could reconfigure it to what we needed.”
Union, then as it is now, is known for its theater program. Goodwin directed ninth-grade plays.
“We started out with ‘Christmas Carol’ and Allen, here, did scenery for it. We did extravaganzas and vaudeville shows. We had a lot of talent every year for the 15 years I directed,” Goodwin said, adding that he also taught a number of those students who performed. “During rehearsals, if they weren’t on stage, I’d have them do role practice from their classes. I never called it homework because that sounds like work. When it’s called practice, it solidifies what they’re getting in the classroom.”
Goodwin planned to return his former school one last time.
“It’s going to be a sad day when they take the wrecking ball to this school,” he said. “I watched Mt. Jordan be demolished and I was tearing up. I spent a lot of time there, too. New schools are needed for progress, but we have a lot of good memories with this building.”
Now, Goodwin and others, can view the video he made up of still images of “Union Middle School 1968-2023” and will put on YouTube to relive those memories.
Other Canyons School District construction projects
At Alta High, construction continues on the $4-million band room expansion that is expected to accommodate about 140 student musicians.
“We didn’t enlarge it when we just did the renovation (which finished in 2021),” Wilcox said. “The program had about 70 kids and it’s basically doubled. The room that was built was for about 80 students so it’s hard to get everyone in when they’re playing trombones and drums and saxophones.”
The new band room will be 6,000 square feet. It will be housed in the former driver’s education and dance room as well as adding about 2,000 feet to those, he said.
Dance will use its other designated classroom and driver’s education will use a room near the gymnasium, Wilcox said. He also said the current band room will be converted into a yoga room which can double with dance.
Construction began soon after the 2022-23 winter sports season; it is expected to be completed at the end of this winter’s sports season, depending upon materials and labor, he said.
Eastmont Middle’s Patriots have returned to their home to celebrate their 50th year in their school after moving to the former Crescent View halfway through last school year.
“We had an asbestos problem, so we had to go mitigate all the asbestos in the building. Basically, it was tearing up a basement floor and having an abatement company go through and make sure it was all cleaned out,” Wilcox said.
On that level, the flooring will remain concrete.
“The issue is we still have water until we have fixed the water issue from the groundwater. They’ve given us some estimates of what we can do, but until we do that, there’s no use putting the tile back,” he said.
Wilcox said it took four months to remediate the project at a cost of $500,000. λ