West Lake STEM Junior High School rebuilds after earthquakeApr 03, 2022 07:41PM ● By Liz Craker
West Lake principal Tyler Howe celebrates with community at the school groundbreaking. (Photo courtesy of Granite School District)
Construction is underway for the new West Lake STEM Junior High School, at 450 W. 3400 South in West Valley City. The occasion was marked with a groundbreaking ceremony March 18 to celebrate the continuation of school’s almost 60-year history.
The ceremony, two years from the date of the earthquake in 2020, featured short speeches from school leaders and local representatives, as well as selected student performances.
The original building sustained significant damage during the earthquake, leading to a temporary relocation of the school. Following extensive building assessments, the Granite Board of Education decided to rebuild instead of repair the original damaged structure.
“After the earthquake, the school was relocated to the old Westbrook Elementary school campus at 3451 W. 6200 South,” principal Tyler Howe said. “The original building had been in West Valley since 1964.”
“This is a home to our community. It’s exciting to watch the next chapter open, and our students get to be the authors of that chapter,” Howe added.
The new West Lake building will be modeled after an existing Utah middle school building, Hidden Valley Middle School, that was completed in 2020.
Howe said the new building will incorporate space for collaborative learning with rollaway walls that will shift four sets of classrooms into one. Because the school has a STEM focus, hands-on learning and collaborative learning are a central part of the curriculum which the layout will support, he said.
“While the school currently has seventh- and eighth-grade students, the new building will accommodate three grades to be prepared for sixth grade if the school expands,” Howe said.
Enrollment has been steady throughout the move from the original campus, according to Ben Horsley, Granite School District communications director. “It is a popular school location because of its STEM focus,” he said.
“We are essentially building a new school at the same cost of what it would have been to restore the old building,” Horsley said. “The original building was built in 1963 at the cost of $2.4 million, and the new building will cost $55 million.”
It is anticipated the new building will be ready August 2024. The school currently has 775 students and 40 teachers. Howe has been the principal for six years.
“It’s a little part of history. It’s difficult when you lose your facility. There is a sense of identity with a building. West Valley is a great community with strong families and to have a junior high school right in the middle is binding. There is a neat pride in the community for the school. People who haven’t been in the building in decades are calling for memorabilia and picking up bricks,” Howe said.