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Cottonwood Heights Journal

New Brighton High revitalizes, expands programs; school to be completed by fall

May 10, 2021 10:52AM ● By Julie Slama

The new $116-million Brighton High School is expected to be completed for the 2021-22 school year. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Brighton interior design teacher Sierra West is taking advantage of the school being under construction.

“I’ve gotten carpet and tiles samples for students,” she said. “We’ve looked over blueprints and took a tour. It’s all material we can study in class. It’s much better to learn from hands-on than theory.”

The 15 students in her fall Intro to Interior Design won’t have the advantage of learning about design while the new school is being built. That’s because the new $116-million Brighton High is expected to be completed this summer, in time to open its doors for about 2,200 students for the 2021-22 school year.

The school is being built in sections, with the performing arts, culinary, sewing, woods, automotive, robotics, jewelry and other programs’ classrooms and labs already completed and are being used this school year. The new gym with a track around the top and a fieldhouse also have been built and are being used for both athletic teams and physical education classes.

Throughout the design, ample windows for daylighting has been incorporated. Display cases line many hallways, showcasing not only the 120 sports trophies the Bengals have amassed in 50 years, but also those from performing arts and other areas as well as student artwork.

In mid-March, the center of the new Brighton High still is under construction, including the main office, administration, counseling and student support offices. The library, which will house the alumni room and a computer lab; the commons; legacy room; and student government room have yet to be finished, however several classrooms, including the preschool, are nearing the final touches.

The section under construction has classrooms designed with long rows of windows to take in the views, and built-in cabinets for storage. The classrooms are designed as pods, with department collaboration rooms already fondly called, “think tanks.”

“We imagine those will be used for student study groups or meetings and will get a lot of use out of them,” Brighton High Assistant Principal Justin Pitcher said.

In the science pods, there will be some common storage, and every department pod will have a kitchenette so teams could meet over lunch.

Throughout this section and the completed portions of the school, there’s an accent of circles, such as the circular grand staircase outside the 1,100-seat auditorium that has a full fly system and black box theatre with expandable seating or just in the circular light fixtures in the hallways.

“We know there’s alumni and students who have loved Brighton’s unique circular pattern so we’ve incorporated the circle theme throughout the new school,” Pitcher said. “We just didn’t build it in a circle so visually, it’s much improved for safety.”

With the new building has come a renewed energy for several of Brighton’s programs, including ceramics, drawing and painting to more of the traditional trades courses, such as woodworking.

“This is one of the prettiest woodshops for a school,” said 2020 Brighton teacher of the year Paul Otterstrom. “We have natural light and more space to work—and $50,000 in new equipment (lathes, drill presses, resaw, CNC and more).”

Next door, Brian Wilding is excited about the new $30,000 vehicle lift, since the old one was purchased in 1995 and parts are obsolete. There also is a new tire mount and two balancers so he can have eight students dedicated to working in this area.

Wilding has about 30 kids enrolled in Auto I, 14 in Auto 2 and 30 in small engines and encourages any student to take his introductory course “to learn how to check tires, check fluids, have a general idea how the car operates and what could be wrong.”

In the robotics room, computers line a couple of walls, and the playing field is mapped on the floor next to desks and chairs where Robert Rainey teaches his students in robotics, CAD and computer science. An adjacent room has storage as well as a small work area.

“We typically have students here working five nights per week so it’s great to have all this space,” he said.

In the jewelry lab, Albert SpencerWise was excited that he now has a larger area to get out all the equipment so he could offer more opportunities to his students. There also was new equipment and 10 stations instead of six at the old shop. 

“I literally took out stuff on the back shelf so now we can use it all the time,” he said, adding that he teaches about a dozen class sections as the program has grown in popularity.

In family consumer sciences, Brighton students have the opportunity to sew on new Bernina sewing machines, some which sit by windows that overlook the valley. The Fashion Apparel & Textiles pathway offers three Sewing Construction & Textiles and three Sport Outdoor Production Design classes as well as the Fashion Design Studio. 

“We also got some new sergers, three new handy industrial sewing machines we can use for making hammocks in our outdoor production design class and a HQ Stitch 510 that can work for quilting or heavy-duty rip stop or canvas,” said sewing teacher Camille Haskin, about the program that has about tripled in size during her 23 years teaching at Brighton.

Next door, culinary teacher Hilary Cavanaugh, who graduated from Brighton in 2005, plans to offer a baking/pastry class in the fall as the “program is growing strong.”

Culinary student stations line the windows overlooking the valley, each with stove, oven, microwave, mixer, sink and other items as well as a flat screen where they can watch their instructor.

“The layout here is way better than we had before,” she said. “We have better equipment with a walk-in refrigerator and high-end equipment.”

The student restaurant, perfectly named The View, sits on the southwest corner offering views of both the rest of the school under construction, the stadium and the surrounding Cottonwood Heights and Sandy areas. 

“The view is just amazing—and so is The View,” she said with a smile. “This building has really boosted the excitement of our program and of the students.”

Throughout the new school, improved wiring for technology has been part of the plans since when the school was built 51 years ago, black-and-white television was the norm. 

The existing school, where people fondly say they get lost “walking in circles,” will be demolished and the area will be used for parking lots. The Brighton Building that was constructed from the 2010 bond has been incorporated into the new school building’s design.

The $116-million school, designed by the architectural firm of MHTN and built by Hogan Construction, is being constructed from the $283-million bond that voters approved in 2017 to modernize and upgrade Canyons School District schools.