Skip to main content

The City Journals

Memories aside, Midvalley community eager for new school

May 29, 2019 02:25PM ● By Julie Slama

Canyons Board of Education member Mont Millerberg, Midvalley Principal Tamra Baker and Midvalley Elementary 36-year custodian Jim Sheeley take their turn helping shovel the spot where a new Midvalley Elementary will stand. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

“This is where we would fly our model airplanes very early in the mornings,” Canyons Board of Education member Mont Millerberg told a crowd of hundreds of neighbors.

He pointed beyond the yellow caution tape around Midvalley Elementary’s former grassy field east of the school, which had been torn up and become muddied from the rain the previous day when the groundbreaking was originally scheduled. 

“The neighbors would call the police, because the motors are very loud. The police would come, and we would grab our stuff and head to the back gate. I think the police figured giving us a good scare was justice enough, because we got away every time,” he said. “Then, the sign showed up.”

The sign, at the entrance of the school grounds, prohibits the flying of model airplanes.

“We proudly refer to that as the ‘Millerberg/Tennyson’ rule,” he said, pointing out houses of the Tennyson family, his grandparents and great grandparents across 7800 South. Millerberg now lives in that same block.

He recounted tales of how Midvalley school grounds served as memories for his childhood and for those of his children and now, grandchildren at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new school on April 17, which was delayed one day because of downpours. 

Midvalley is the first elementary school to be rebuilt (at a cost not to exceed $21,242,000) from a $283 million bond approved by voters in November 2017. Already underway are the rebuilding of Hillcrest and Brighton high schools and additions for Alta and Corner Canyon high schools from the bond funds.

The new elementary school, which is expected to open in fall 2020, will sit on the former grassy field as the current 435 students will continue to study in the 62-year-old school. The new school will be the largest elementary at 85,000 square feet to house 800 students, anticipated to help school children in the growing west side of the city, Principal Tamra Baker said.

“Many of the older folk remember that cleaning chalkboard erasers was regarded a privilege and duck-and-cover drills were the staple of school safety plans,” she said. “We have some pretty amazing students and teachers who, over the years, have achieved great things despite the roof leaks and sometimes uncomfortably hot and cold classrooms. Imagine what’s possible when the excellence we have come to expect from ourselves is mirrored by our surroundings.”

NJRA Architects designed the building with input from teachers, students and the community and held a preliminary preview of the school last fall. Crews with Bud Mahas Construction already have started work this spring on the two-story school that will 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. 

Classrooms will have natural light, technology, a sink with a drinking fountain, storage and space for learning. Nearby will be restrooms and drinking fountains with water bottle filling stations as well as 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.

With a performance from the school choir, Millerberg jumped in a backhoe to scoop up dirt.

“I scooped up one shovel and it felt so good, I did another,” Millerberg said.

After a ceremonial dig from dignitaries, students rushed in to turn the dirt themselves.

Second-grader Spencer Lee was amongst those who stayed the longest to “help” build the new school.

“He will attend the new school when he’s in fourth grade,” said Suzy Lee, his mother and a parent volunteer in the school. “I think this will be awesome to have a nice, new beautiful building that is up-to-date and they’re being pro-active in taking care of kids.”

Parent Polly Gallman has two children, Jacob and Callie, at Midvalley and three older kids already have graduated from the school. While she acknowledged her kids’ memories are tied in with the existing building, she is looking forward to the new school.

“Part of it to me is that the building is a structure that is connected to a generation of educators and employees who give their heart and soul to teaching and represent that era and for me, it’s the memory of my kids’ youth and education, but with a new building, it will be far better in terms of safety, air conditioning and learning,” she said. 

Gallman, who works in the front office, said that the school is more than the building.

“Midvalley integrates all different ethnicities, income diversity, backgrounds and our children see the world differently because of that. We embrace this culture; it’s a great community. Whether the building is old or new, it symbolizes who we are. It’s awesome to see when a child comes to the school without knowing a single word in English and six months later, I see them say, ‘Hi Miss Polly,’” she said. “These kids, some who may be experiencing difficult circumstances, are given a chance and with positive support from people who care about them, are able to thrive. There are great things in store for them.”