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Sandy Journal

Alta’s new facelift revealed at historic ribbon-cutting

Aug 25, 2021 11:33AM ● By Julie Slama

Alta High Principal Brian McGill, along with cheer captain Annie Brimley and Student Body President Autumn Engstrom cut the ribbon, officially opening the newly remodeled high school. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Much of Alta Student Body President Autumn Engstrom’s high school career has been marked by her school campus being under construction or school life affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Aug. 12, with a ceremonial community ribbon-cutting, Alta High’s renovation projects were coming to a close.

“It’s the end of a lot of dust and dirt and the beginning of a new, improved school,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like the same school. It’s a beautiful place.”

Engstrom, along with cheer captain Annie Brimley and Alta Principal Brian McGill, used a giant pair of scissors to snip the giant red ribbon of the Hawk’s new nest. Other ceremonial cuts were performed by Canyons Board of Education and elected officials in the new courtyard that has outdoor hanging lights and cement benches that are shaped to spell Alta. The community watched the ceremony held near the new red Alta sign, identifying the main office which contrasted the new exterior walls and windows.

Canyons Board Vice President Amanda Oaks said that there were a lot of reasons to renovate Alta High.

“Originally constructed in 1978, the campus had plenty of years of useful life, but there were technological and space limitations,” she said about the building that was seismically safe. “Instead of rebuilding the school, we chose to renovate it. From day one, the focus on the design has been about creating the best learning environment for our students.”

There are new facets to the campus. For example, the new performing arts center, which sits on the northwest corner of campus, was completed in time for a socially-distanced graduation in 2020. It was part of one of the phases designed to allow the campus to remain open throughout construction.

The 1,400-seat performing arts center blends in with the nearby Wasatch landscape and has large letters spelling Alta and electronic marquees to announce upcoming events. It features a full fly loft and orchestra pit. There are 12 wheelchair seats and elevators to ensure it is ADA accessible. 

Seventy feet above the stage is the catwalk and rigging, and below stage, is the center’s own chilling and heating system. Behind the stage, there are rooms for costume changes, a green room to warm-up in for musical or theatrical productions, and a make-up room with ample lighting, as well as storage spaces. 

A new fieldhouse sits on the north end of the football field and track. Not only does it allow flexibility for sports practices and physical education classes, there is an upstairs meeting room that can be used for banquets or art exhibits, as well as to watch the Hawks compete.

“There’s nothing like the traditions we have with our football games at Alta,” Engstrom said.

An expanded weight room near the fieldhouse, within the walls of the old school, has equipment McGill acquired from Jordan High and the University of Utah along with some equipment purchases from a Larry H. Miller Foundation grant.

Nearby, a new black box theatre was created on the former Alta stage which allows for more intimate shows. The music rooms were moved to where the former auditorium seating was located so that space, and the former counseling office, can be used for the main office, which has a secure vestibule. 

A Hawk lounge, an alumni room, a career center, a tech atrium, and a new green room for broadcasts help create a new look for the former school. Also updated are the lights in the classrooms, a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, an audio-alarm system and a soccer field with stadium lights.

The former auto shop is now the home of the art department and the former robotics room moved around the corner so the counseling office could be housed closer to the center of the school.

Engstrom loves the remodel in the commons. That’s no surprise to McGill, who said it is his favorite part as well. The former commons used to have a low ceiling, with a few stairs dropping down into the large square area.

“It was like dark steps into the dungeon,” he said. “Now the commons is the heart of the school. The kids recognize the beauty of sitting and looking out to see Alta [mountain peak] and the outline of the Wasatch range and asked we arrange our table format for that view.”

New café tables were ordered, but are delayed because of impacts with the pandemic, McGill said.

At groundbreaking, the kitchen still needed to be completed as did the gym floor. The latter was delayed by humidity and McGill said they are considering bringing in equipment to eliminate it in the air so the boards could be laid.

Canyons Chief Financial Officer and Business Administrator Leon Wilcox expected both projects should be completed by the end of October.

“In renovating Alta, our focus was on safety and sustainability,” he said, saying it’s not only built to last, but is cost-efficient and “wired for today’s teaching technology. Attention was paid to preserving such recent improvements as the football stadium” and being cost-efficient so the commons is multi-functional and doubles as a cafeteria.

Canyons Supt. Rick Robins said even with an upgraded school, “Anyone with ties to this high school knows how central it is to the community. This isn’t just a structure to house classrooms. This is A-town, the home of the Hawks, a community resource and safe haven for students to explore new ideas and master information. Within these halls, lifelong friendships are built, and dreams are inspired. This new school truly reflects the pride and character of the Alta High family.”

McGill, Utah’s principal of the year, can attest to that. He recalled being a student at Alta, with the academic demands as well as the two-a-day practices as a football player. 

“This campus, the program, the sports and other activities helped mold and shape the person I’ve become today,” he said. “I feel very fortunate, blessed, and humbled to be working in this capacity, to give back and be able to oversee and immerse myself in the updated design of this high school. Alta is home.”

McGill thanked his family for their support and Alta’s student officers, cheerleaders and drumline for being a part of the evening’s historic program, which included community tours of the campus.

Oaks also thanked the community, not only for their patience during the three-year rebuild, but also for their 2017 vote to approve a $283 million tax-neutral bond, which paid for Alta High’s renovation and other school rebuilds and improvements. Wilcox said that Alta’s remodeling of that portion was $57 million.