Morale boost • More light, air conditioning bring smile to faces of kids and teachers.
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Last school year, Midvale Elementary bid farewell to the facility it had used for 61 years, but students and teachers now have a new school they can comfortably move into.
"I can't think of a school being built in a nicer location," said Justin Pitcher, Midvale Elementary assistant principal. "It's amazing that they can build such a beautiful school in such a short time."
The new school, 7852 S. Pioneer St., sits only three blocks away from the old one and shares an educational campus with Midvale Middle School. This marked the first completed construction project funded with money from a $250 million bond approved by voters in 2010.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 13, Canyons School District Superintendent Dave Doty told a large crowd of community members that constructing a new Midvale Elementary was one of his top priorities.
"I distinctly remember my meeting with the Midvale Elementary faculty, at which we spent more than an hour discussing the inferior condition of the school and the faculty's skepticism that anything would be done to improve it," Doty said at the event.
Safety issue had caused concerns with the old building.
"It wasn't earthquake-proofed, and we cannot have a building that can't stand up to natural disasters," said Tamara Taysom, a third-grade teacher at Midvale Elementary.
Westland Construction workers completed the 90,000-square-foot school in about one year, with the groundbreaking in August 2011.
Pitcher said he enjoyed watching the entire school being built in the course of the past school year. The highlights for him at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were seeing the construction workers honored and the students recognized.
"There was a lot of excitement," he said. "The students were looking at the school and their jaws were dropping, so to speak."
Although the new school is not far in distance from the old one, the upgrades are numerous.
"What the teachers are loving the most is the air-conditioning," Pitcher said.
The classrooms in the old school, which lacked air-conditioning, would have reached 85 degrees around this time, Pitcher said. The new classrooms are accommodating students and teachers with temperatures in the low 70s.
The facility also features 24 spacious classrooms and computer labs, and it was built to allow an abundance of natural light.
"One of the main differences is the old Midvale school was very dark," Taysom said. "The new school is full of windows and is a far more cheerful environment to teach the children in."
The design incorporated a theme of Utah's geological characteristics.
"On the outside of the school, the bricks are layered in such a way that it looks like strata of sandstone," Pitcher said. "There's a big metal beam in the construction that makes a fault line in the building."
Pitcher and Taysom are fans of the carpeted Grand Staircase – named after the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – which the school plans to use as an amphitheater for assemblies.
"It's a major feature of the school, very prominent as soon as you walk through the front door," Taysom said. "There will be a screen installed in front of the staircase, which will allow us to show films."
Another design element allows an open flow between the first and second floors, meaning people from the different levels can see and communicate with each other.
"It contributes to a wonderful sense of community that the design of the old building did not foster," Taysom said. "Students can see each other from long distances, and there's a lot of waving."
A piece of the old school is preserved in the metal bell that used to hang in the original school. Now it is in the courtyard of the new school, and the children delight in ringing it.
"The kids can ring that bell all they want," Pitcher said. "They pull on the giant cable, and it's quite loud."
Although the school is first and foremost dedicated to education, Pitcher said the building will also serve community functions.
"It's a new central spot for community action," he said. "The mayor said she hopes it becomes the heart of Midvale."
Taysom observed how enchanted students were when they visited the building on the Friday and Saturday before the first week back to school.
"Their eyes were huge, and mostly, they were kind of speechless," Taysom said. "Some of them, they didn't want to leave."
She lauds the decision the district made to build a new school because of the message it conveys to those who will benefit the most from it.
"The morale of students has just skyrocketed," she said. "When you add something like this beautiful building, you communicate to the children that they matter."