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Cottonwood Heights Journal

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

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● By Julie Slama

Brighton Principal Tom Sherwood stands by renderings of a possible look to a rebuilt Brighton High. (Patrick Huish/Brighton High)

This summer, construction crews are expected to begin building a new Brighton High School, thanks to voters who in November approved a $283 million tax-neutral bond to modernize and upgrade Canyons School District schools.

“It is fantastic that the bond passed,” Brighton Principal Tom Sherwood said. “It means a lot to our community and to the kids. 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.”

The initial recommendation by the administration is to begin with the high schools, said Superintendent Jim Briscoe.

“The rationale is that construction costs will increase significantly every year, so we’re fiscally more responsible to work on these projects first,” he said. “Plus, they will impact more students initially and in the years to come.”

Both 48-year-old Brighton and 55-year-old Hillcrest in Midvale will be completely rebuilt, said Canyons School District Business Administrator Leon Wilcox. He said the goal of the projects at 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. Both schools, as well as Alta High, already have architectural firms and the construction crew in place.

Brighton’s new school is estimated to cost $87 million and could possibly begin its construction with a new auditorium. Improved floor plans for better collaboration, natural light and safety are important factors as well, Sherwood said.

The recently built Bengal Building as well as the football field and off-campus athletic facilities will remain intact during the rebuild, he said.

“One unique thing is that we sit on the knoll, so we have beautiful views of the valley and mountains and canyon,” which will be considered as the new school is being built, Sherwood said.

The new Hillcrest, which is estimated at a cost of $85 million, also may have improvements in the performing arts areas as well as extended athletic facilities, including possibly adding field houses to their 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.”

Hillcrest principal Gregory Leavitt said 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,” he 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 and 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. 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 a yet-to-be-determined White City elementary as well as building a new elementary in Draper.

Briscoe said that when Canyons School 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.

“I’m excited for the families and students of Canyons School District,” he said. “I thank our community in making this monumental decision for the future of our students.”