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Sandy Journal

Hundreds turn out at Indian Hills welcome back, school reopening

Sep 17, 2018 02:48PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Hundreds of students and families packed the newly refurbished Indian Hills Middle School and the new commons area as Canyons Board of Education President Sherril Taylor thanked them for relocating the past year during construction. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com 

Eighth-grader Marissa Neve was excited to see the newly refurbished gymnasium at Indian Hills Middle School. 

She, along with her parents and friend, eighth-grader Madison Dobson, toured the new building after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was held in the new commons area.

“It’s new and it’s not; I can still find most of my way around the school,” said Marissa, who didn’t take a map from the depleting pile which was being distributed by Gary Hansen, of Canyons School District’s purchasing department. “We didn’t have a commons before so I’m not sure what we will be using it for, but the entire building is much lighter.” 

The new student commons area, which has natural lighting from skylights, will become the central point of the school, with core classes, career and technical education classes, art and performing arts classes and the gymnasium spurring off from the commons. The offices and counseling offices were moved to the front of the school and also are attached to the commons. 

Throughout the school, there is more natural light with windows and skylights in what was an all-brick building. 

“Now the rooms are much nicer and more modern and we have windows,” Madison added.

Principal Doug Graham said the transformation in the building for the 1,200 students is unreal. 

“We can say there are a lot of improvements and natural light, but when you walk in here and see the commons and the changes in the interior classrooms, it blows you away,” he said. 

Canyons Board of Education President Sherril Taylor, who taught students how to dissect frogs and sharks in science labs in the 38-year-old school, said there is a much different feel to the building. 

“This is everything we hoped it would be,” he said. “To be here for this community and the kids, both back in 1980 and today, is very exciting and fulfilling to be a part of the history of this school.” 

At the ceremony, he not only mentioned the project was on budget and time, but appreciated the students and their families’ willingness to relocate to the former Crescent View Middle School during the construction period. 

“I know the year away from the neighborhood school could cause hardships for families, educators, staff, but in doing so, it allowed us to get it rebuilt in one year instead of three,” Taylor said. 

Board of Education member Chad Iverson, who has his own children attending the school, said he is grateful to return to the school. 

“I’ve never seen so many students back and excited to be in their school two days before school actually starts,” he said. 

Eighth-grader JJ Sullivan was one of the students in the crowd. 

“It’s very big and cool,” he said. “Now we don’t have to hang on the walls to get by in the halls.”

His mother, Heather, also appreciated the new building.

“It’s awesome and just gorgeous,” she said. “It’s more open and not as confined.” 

Taylor said the restructuring was the last of 13 projects as part of the $250 million bond voters approved in 2010. 

“People thought that we were silly to become a new district, then ask for a bond, but our buildings were in such disrepair, we wanted to give our students the opportunity to learn in the schools that are safe and have technological advances,” he said. 

The facelift of the school includes new paint, carpet and matching furniture as well as adding a new circulation desk and work room in the media center, which now has a view of the Wasatch Mountains and houses a computer lab. 

Technology as well as the iron chef cooking competition were two things transfer student and seventh-grader Oliver Demke said he is looking forward to this year. 

“The school is super nice; it’s a lot more open and seems bigger than before,” he said. “I like the artistic designs throughout the school.” 

Throughout the building, Native American geometric patterns were incorporated in the tiles, walls and in the colors. The Indian Hills Warrior logo was updated to match the new school. 

“We want to keep with our tradition and identity, but be respectful of Native Americans,” Graham said. 

Other changes include a new large meeting room, expanding the kiva stage and installing a sound board; a tech lab and a prototype design room; enlarged science labs; large two-dimensional and three-dimensional art rooms with natural light; newly installed dual-immersion language system; upgraded school kitchen and serving area; 40 new Bernina sewing machines and eight cooking stations in the career and technical education area; and in the physical education area, new lockers and showers. The performing arts area now includes a music library, practices rooms, instrument storage and built-in risers for the choir. The school also features two writing labs.

Graham said he hopes students feel safer and will take more pride in their new school.

“Students will be more respectful toward their new furnishings and equipment and can really experience this once-in-a-lifetime, clean, upgraded building,” he said. “It’s been a long summer, but it is an incredible experience to help remodel a building within an existing structure. We’ve had so many different issues to those who are building new schools, but I’m excited that we have a beautiful building with so much more space and light. We still have the feel of our old building and familiarity of our traditions, but what we now offer in CTE (career technical education), art and science is just amazing.” 

Superintendent Jim Briscoe, who said the district is committed to student learning, told a joke about the start of school where a mother woke her child telling him that he had to go to school. He said that she said, “You have to go because 1) you’re 50 years old and, 2) you’re the principal. With Doug (Graham) as your principal, you don’t have that.” 

To which Graham responded: “I’m 52.”