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Sandy Journal

Union to continue serving students as groundbreaking slated for new school building

Apr 19, 2021 10:53AM ● By Julie Slama

The 53-year-old Union Middle School will be rebuilt on the field east of the existing school; its groundbreaking is scheduled for April 22. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

There’s a rich history behind Union Middle School, a namesake that started when eight families founded Union in 1849, which now is incorporated into the cities of Cottonwood Heights, Midvale and Sandy.

Three years later, school was taught during the winter to about 30 students. In another three years, a large adobe schoolhouse was built in the center of Union, which doubled as a meeting house. Union even had its own school district, Union School District 23 in 1877.

In 1905, the schools were incorporated into the United Jordan School District and in 1968, the current Union Middle School was built.

Now, as part of Canyons School District, the 53-year-old building will be rebuilt, beginning with a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Thursday, April 22 on the school campus, 615 E. 8000 South. 

“The design has been very collaborative with the architects,” Principal Kelly Tauteoli said. “Union has been a community school, so we wanted a lot of input from our community—our elective and core teachers, office staff, SCC (school community council), our families. It’s going to be an amazing, functionable new school that is thoughtfully put together.”

With components similar to the recent rebuild of Midvale Middle, Canyons Board of Education member Mont Millerberg said that Tauteoli learned what works well and what should be changed from Midvale Middle’s principal, Mindy Robison.

“Mindy shared her likes and dislikes, so Kelly took components and moved them here and there like a shell game,” he said. “I love the design with pods for each grade. It helps the sixth-graders to acclimate to middle school life.”

While many of the meetings have been online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the plans for the $57.8 million school, which will be rebuilt on the same campus, is on schedule for a fall 2023 opening. Students will remain in the current building until the new school is completed.

It will be built on the grass field east of the current school building, with the entrance facing west.

“Even though it will be closer to 700 East, there will be a good cushion of grass from the fence and the parking lot,” Tauteoli said about the two-story, 218,000-square-foot school building.

Canyons Chief Financial Officer and Business Administrator Leon Wilcox said there is a concentrated effort to keep disruptions to students at a minimum during the rebuild.

“There will be quite a bit of utility work because we’re going to build it on the play field on 700 East,” he said. “We purchased the seminary and a house (that will be demolished) off of 7800 South to bring in materials (for an access road). Parking is going to be challenging (during the construction period). It will be a coordinated effort with the spots they (Hughes General Contractors) need to use and spots we need to have. That’s always the big challenge when you build on site is parking.”

He added that it will affect parent drop-off locations, but that access road will become the bus drop-off point once construction is completed.

The school, that will sport the school colors of blue and yellow, will have state-of-the-art technology and wiring.

“That’s one of the things that just drives up the price tag is electrical capacity that all these buildings have to have,” Wilcox said.

Each of the grade-level wings will be wired and have collaborative spaces. 

There also will be a wing for students with disabilities and a collaborative area for psychologists, speech pathologists and others. An adapted PE area, that includes a ramp and outdoor learning equipment, for those with physical disabilities is planned, Tauteoli said.

The performing arts area, with a 650-seat auditorium, as well as the arts and career and technical education classrooms, will be located near the main office.

“Our school auditorium right now seats 1,200, but the cost for one that size is prohibitive. This one will give a more intimate theatre experience, where our patrons will feel part of the production. We’ve had strong turnout for our theater performances the past couple years so we will look at how to accommodate our patrons,” she said, noting that last spring’s double-casted “Once Upon this Island” was shut down during the pandemic.

The dance and PE classes in the gymnasium, which will feature an indoor track, will be located closer to the cafeteria.

“We moved the cafeteria from the center of the school as it is at Midvale Middle to the end of the school nearer to the gym so we could bring the academic wings closer to the office,” Tauteoli said. “We’ll have more access to classrooms.”

The school’s recent tradition of cupcake wars will continue at the new Union as the family and consumer sciences rooms will include a culinary set-up with steel moveable tables so the room can be shaped in lines or in a U-shape to watch demonstrations.

“It offers flexibility, more configurations to work as teams or partners. It’s a much more contemporary workspace,” she said.

A green screen room also will be by the cafeteria where students can take the challenge to compete on equipment similar to “America Ninja Warrior,” Tauteoli said.

“The play equipment will be safe, and it will be an option that during lunch, they can complete the challenge,” she said.

There also will be the Bobcat Den, a large learning space where multiple classes can meet, or it might house district professional development staff meetings.

“Right now, we are all in the library, so anytime we may have a faculty meeting, we close the library. This way, the library will stay open for our students,” Tauteoli said.

Wilcox noted that much of it will be like other recent middle school rebuilds in the district.

“It will have the same cafeteria design, same auditorium size, same office suite size, same number of classrooms,” he said. “Midvale, Draper Park and Butler have the same architect (VCBO Architecture)—we just love the design of all three of them. All three of them are very similar. The colors make it look different and the orientation of the buildings look different, but the functionality looks pretty much the same in all three. We just like the flow and design of it.”