Sixty-three years of Edgemont Elementary memories to make way for new schoolJun 01, 2021 11:16AM ● By Julie Slama
With the official turning of the shovels, the groundbreaking of $23-million Glacier Hills Elementary was celebrated; the new school should be open to students in fall 2022. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
When 90-year-old Raya Jones moved into White City, there was an orchard on the corner of 9400 South and 700 East, an alfalfa field waved in the wind where Bear Park stands now, and a dirt field was the home of Edgemont Elementary.
“It was just sagebrush and weeds maybe when we built our starter home on the west side of Poppy,” she said. “I have seen the whole area just grow really tremendously. Everybody was very happy to have a school built that was close enough for children to walk.”
Her five children were some of the first who attended the new school once it was built. Prior to that, students were bussed to Sandy Elementary.
Jones played piano for the school choir, and remembers a highlight was when they sang on the radio and saw actor William Shatner at the studio. The former teacher also substituted at Edgemont after she stopped teaching in Cottonwood Heights.
“I can’t believe they’re going to tear it down and build a new one, but I guess things wear out over the years,” she said.
In late March, the last desks, chairs and boxes of books were carried out of Edgemont to nearby former Crescent View Middle where students will study until the new $23-million, 95,000-square-foot school is completed in fall 2022. Six months earlier, the Canyons Board of Education had voted to merge Edgemont and nearby Bell View elementaries into one new school, Glacier Hills, on the Edgemont campus.
While the COVID-19 pandemic kept large crowds watching the livestream of the March 31 Glacier Hills groundbreaking on the Edgemont campus, Edgemont Principal Michelle Snarr let students who attended in-person celebrate the last week and say goodbye through different events celebrating the different decades of the school. A small group came to the groundbreaking, some to say goodbye to their beloved Edgemont and others were excited about the technologies that will be incorporated into Glacier Hills.
At the groundbreaking, Canyons Board member Steve Wrigley said that going to a new, state-of-the-art school “will revitalize and make a huge difference to the neighborhood.” Once, Jones said, 70 kids on a street would walk to school and at the peak, it had several portable classrooms; this year, empty classrooms were used for teacher collaboration.
Thirty-six years ago, Mary Beth Snow moved into the Edgemont neighborhood. Since then, Snow, who works part-time as a teacher aide, has watched her children and now, two of her grandkids attend the elementary school.
“The neighborhood has gotten older; It’s time for a new school, with everything electronically, it is hard to teach,” she said. “Edgemont was being built while our homes in the neighborhood were built. The wiring and heating all need upgrading. It’s crazy when the boiler doesn’t work, and we’ve had to bring portable heaters in the hallway. It will be exciting—a new school, new people coming in (from Bell View) and it will be a good opportunity for students to make more friends.”
Many friendships have formed through experiences at the school, such as fifth-graders learning American history by being taxed if they ate sugar as a way “to understand how taxes affected them, like the Boston Tea Party.” Or fourth-graders learning about mountain men and pioneers by playing Hoops and Graces. Flat Stanley was a highlight for younger children, and they’d eagerly await to hear his adventures when he was returned through the mail, Snow said.
Another tradition was the kindergarten Gingerbread Man Chase, recalled former teacher Kim Brinton, who was hired to take over for a teacher who had adopted a baby because “in those days, you couldn’t be employed if you had a child.”
“During the first week, we’d introduce kindergarteners to the school, so they didn’t think it was too big or scary,” she said. “It was part of our introduction to community helpers, and we’d learn about all the different people in the school—the librarian, the custodian, the secretary, the aides and the cooks, who would roll out and bake a 35-inch giant gingerbread man and hide it. Then, we’d meet people as we searched for the gingerbread man. My first kindergarten class is now 48 years old, and they can still tell me where the gingerbread man was hidden.”
Edgemont seemed expansive to students as it was designed in a X-shape, with two long wings and two shorter ones. In the center, an auditorium and stage sat separate from the cafeteria and in the front of the school was the library and office, which housed a walk-in bank vault for lunch and school picture money, before it was turned into a sick room.
Sometime, with the boom of enrollment, a wing added more classrooms; typically, two grade levels were housed in classrooms in each wing. The large classrooms are known for their long rows of windows, a sink and drinking fountain, and plenty of storage.
“We used to joke what has four wings and can’t fly?” Brinton said about the school.
Besides teaching kindergarten, she also taught second and fourth grades, recalling other traditions, such as second-graders making Easter baskets from Clorox bottles and parading to Bing Crosby’s song, “Easter Parade” and the fourth-graders Utah history program being favorites. First-graders looked forward to their daddy dinner date night and third-graders to the annual grandparents’ day program as well as walking to 7-11 to get Slurpees when they mastered their multiplication tables. Fifth-graders would look forward to exploring the flora and fauna in “the gully” of nearby Dimple Dell.
Brinton recalls that it was in the ’70s and early ’80s when the school’s mascot Earnest the Eagle (recently known as Sky) was introduced along with the school colors and school song, which was written by Paul and Judy Thomas, whose children attended Edgemont.
“I have so many memories of happy times there and of times I associate with what was happening at the time,” she said. “When people ask me, ‘Where were you during 9-11, or when Reagan was shot, or when Challenger exploded, I had one answer—Edgemont.”
Former Principal J. Dale Christensen also has a memory that sticks out. When he was meeting with parents on April 1, 1976, his wife interrupted with a call to say she was going into labor. He quickly ran out of the school, but his secretary stopped him at the parking lot to say it was an April Fool’s joke.
“Mrs. Spencer was a wonderful secretary, but she and my wife got me that time,” he said.
Christensen said that collaboration or team teaching was being introduced while he was principal, and teachers were excited about the “new learning process” and the community was “very supportive.”
Teachers also loved the classrooms with sinks and drinking fountains, which made a “dramatic difference. The teachers were thrilled that kids could get a drink of water right there and they had the sinks for the convenience of art projects. They loved the classrooms; nowhere are they as large as here,” he said.
His son, Brian, recalls attending kindergarten at the school: “I remember naptime. We’d have a blanket on the floor and have a carton of milk and graham crackers for snack.”
Sharece Watts remembers Edgemont’s playground, which used to be on the side of the school, had basketball standards, swings, a teeter-totter, a metal balance beam, a teether ball and a play train.
“We used to play Red Rover, Kissing Tag and Prison Dodge and the stairway to the kitchen was the jail,” Watts said. “We played the teachers kickball on the last day of school. We also used to play soccer against Bell View at the end of the year.”
When it was inside recess, she remembers playing “Thumbs Up, Seven Up.”
At lunchtime, Watts always had school lunches.
“They were good lunches with hot rolls, homemade desserts like cinnamon rolls or cookies, and real meals like potatoes and gravy, meat and vegetables. We could sit wherever we wanted and talk to our friends,” she said.
Watts’ four children and three grandchildren also attended Edgemont and she said they always looked forward to picking out books at the book fairs and to Halloween when they’d parade the hallways in costumes.
After former special education teacher LuAnn Hill’s three kids attended kindergarten through sixth grade, she taught at the school for 20 years where she recalls first-graders had a “cute” stick dance program, fifth-graders learned etiquette and sixth-graders held a Valentine’s Day dance.
Playworks structured recess program was introduced at the school as well as a free after-school program that offered tutoring, and programming with science, Legos and physical education. There also was a literacy group that met after school and to celebrate reading, planted the Dr. Seuss tree outside the front doors.
Hill advised student council which helped with the annual fun run, food drives, morning announcements, raising and lowering the flag, and serving others through Operation Smile or Make-A-Wish or other organizations.
“The students would research what they were interested in and choose who they wanted to help,” she said.
A tradition started during these years for sixth-graders as a reward—that being to see the school’s boiler room at the end of the school year. There, besides the boilers, was storage for desks and chairs, tools and a worktable, and a restroom with a shower and a crusty old towel.
“I never went down there because I heard it was creepy,” she said. “The kids thought it was the coolest thing.”
From the boiler, workers could enter the tunnels which ran under the school. Shortly before the demolition, old textbooks and magazines dating back to 1965 were discovered. Narrow access doors found in hallways and closets as well as a hidden staircase from the faculty room also accessed the tunnels. Rumors in recent years were that Myrtle, a ghost, lived in the building although Brinton said she didn’t have any encounters, she recalled a guinea pig escaping from the first-grade classroom got loose and was never found.
Scott Salter attended school at the turn of the century, then came back to work after school as a sweeper for six years.
“I remember the tunnel was dirt and maybe it was teachers who put old library and children’s books down there,” he said. “I never heard of a ghost when I was a kid, but the boiler was called ‘the beast’ or ‘the dragon’ and it would always break. It was more frightening down there as a kid.”
His fonder memories included a Mother’s Day pageant; a cowboy round-up that students partnered with their dads; the Easter parade; a mountain men and Utah history rendezvous, fifth-grade simulations to learn about taxation, the Mayflower and Civil War; a sixth-grade Valentine’s Day dance (set to the theme of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”) and year-end softball tournament, which his year “the students won.”
He also recalled Edgemont singing at the 2002 Olympics opening ceremony, the school having its own snowboarder pin and the torch relay running close by the school.
“We had a solid group of teachers and some set traditions. Edgemont was a community school where teachers wanted to see students succeed, grow and be happy,” he said. “As a sweeper, we polished the bricks and waxed them smooth. Some sinks weren’t used so they turned orange from the pipes. The building has aged in a very old way, but it still has beautiful brickwork and windows.”
The building was updated as carpet was installed over the tile floors and walls received a fresh coat of paint. An ADA ramp was installed and the gates that dropped from the ceiling to secure the wings no longer were used, he said.
And also, a secure vestibule was added, said former co-PTA president Jen Monson, whose children all attended Edgemont.
Monson and the PTA through the years helped bring about fundraising for the school’s technology, which is now a one student to one device ratio.
“The children are more digital,” she said. “When we first got there, they could check out a device for a certain part of the day and the entire school was sharing. Now, with more teaching online, there’s a need for every student to have a device.”
Much of the effort was done through the annual Grand Event, a springtime gathering with students singing and displaying their artwork, playing games, launching rockets, getting their faces painted and seeing friends as it was an opportunity to “bring the community together,” she said.
Salter’s mother, Lori, has taught at Edgemont the past 13 years and will miss the laughing and cheering in the school.
“There was a lot of love in the school, and I hope it will continue (at Glacier Hills),” she said. “The classrooms were a dream for teachers. We could talk about science and look right outside our big windows and see what we were discussing. The 1958 masonry and pipes are old, but I would love to keep the classrooms and windows. We’ve gone from Jordan District to Canyons, and we’ve gone from projectors and dot cameras to iPads and computers, but through it, there’s still been a strong mission of teaching and learning.”
Lori Salter, who has been a part of the Glacier Hills committee that “tried to find a unique name” for the new school, said that it was decided to pay “homage to both Edgemont and Bell View,” but at the same time of starting anew, with new traditions.
“It’s been like a funeral, seeing former students and staff, hearing stories about Edgemont; it’s given some closure,” she said. “Once we see the new school and the asset it will be for our community, we’ll come together for the fresh start.”