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Sandy Journal

Beehive Science & Technology Academy to move, renovate Shopko store for expansion

Feb 23, 2022 06:25PM ● By Julie Slama

Sandy Mayor Monica Zoltanski shares with students and families her father’s abacus at the groundbreaking of the new Beehive Academy campus. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Beehive Science & Technology Academy sophomore Rishi Patel is planning to take programming next semester and next year in the school’s new building, he’d like to learn JavaScript to help him toward his dream job of becoming a video game designer.

“This is a much larger building with a really good location so we can include kindergarten and elementary kids at our school,” he said looking at the former Sandy Shopko store which will become Beehive’s new campus. “Our teachers are great and really take the time to help me and I’ve met so many of my friends here.”

Beehive acquired the 116,000-square-foot former retail store site with plans to expand the school to include the elementary students. For the past 17 years, the STEM charter school has served middle and high school students at its current campus in the Sandy Mall.

The current enrollment of about 315 students could reach to about 750 this fall, with plans to have about 1,000 students in the years to come, Beehive Academy Principal Hanifi Oguz said.

“I am very excited and thrilled about the growth of the school and how we are now finally able to offer the same quality of education to even more students,” he said.

Working with architects at SilverPeak Engineering and One West Construction, plans are to renovate the main level’s 94,000-square-feet at 2165 E. 9400 South to open to students by fall 2022. The second level of 22,500-square-feet will be expanded for small group collaboration and expanded library space at a later date.

Half of the building will operate as an elementary school under the direction of Lisa Ronnenkamp, who worked in the public school system for 27 years, 12 as an English language arts coordinator who mentored new teachers in Davis School District and seven in administration. 

Oguz, who has been Beehive’s director, will continue to oversee the secondary school.

All students will have access to STEM labs and programs as well as the school media center, which will be located in the center of the building.  

“Primarily, the library is going to be utilized for elementary and junior (high students) because that’s what they mostly use. The others usually use digital tools like digital libraries,” Oguz said. “We will have several engineering, STEM and computer labs, like technology centers, for both secondary and elementary students. They learn lots of programming, with a lot of software and different kinds of applications.”

Beehive’s courses range from computer science and information technology pathways to digital art and other career technical education courses. For high school students, there are Advanced Placement and concurrent enrollment classes as well. All students have their own iPads.

The school’s cafeteria and gymnasium will be designed for all students. Also, on the 9.2-acre campus, a fenced playground will be constructed on the east side of the building. Parking will remain in front of the building and both the elementary and secondary will have secure entrances.

Beehive also offers several extracurricular programs, including video game club, CyberPatriot club, music jam, hiking, and robotics teams, which consistently perform well at both state and world competitions.

“We had outgrown our current location and have been on the search for quite some time; staying in Sandy is something we felt was important to us,” Oguz said.

Beehive Academy purchased and is paying for building improvements with support from the Utah State Charter School’s finance authority.

“We have been able to issue the bonds and we secured our bonds,” Oguz said about the building purchase at $12.4 million with another $13.4 million being earmarked for renovations and fees.

The school held its groundbreaking ceremony at its new campus in mid-January, with students helping to unveil a banner hanging from the building.

Beehive, which began as a vision of doctorate students to promote STEM education in underrepresented groups, has served thousands of students and was rated as the best high school in 2021 by the U.S. News and World Report.

Sandy Mayor Monica Zoltanski appreciates the STEM education Beehive offers in the city.

“STEM education is critical to our students’ success at every stage of life and the expansion of Beehive Academy will bring even more opportunities for learning,” she said.

Beehive Academy School Board President Calvin Zulich said that Beehive helps “close the STEM workforce shortage of our state and nation” through its rigorous curriculum, and the school has been recognized for it.

Last year, the school was honored as the best middle school in Utah by Niche; Beehive has received Best in State awards for the past five years. It also has been recognized as the platinum Level STEM school by the Utah State School Board and Utah STEM Action Center and as an Apple Distinguished School. Beehive also recently received an award from the AP College Board with the AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award.

The school, which typically has a 15:1 student to teacher ratio, holds an annual Utah STEM Expo showcasing about 350 secondary and college student demonstrations every winter for the public.

Student speakers former student body president Aiden Pasinsky and Congressional Gold Medal award-winner Elnura Kibarova said their education was personalized and supported by faculty.

“I believe Beehive is exactly what a school should be—and more,” Pasinsky said. “It trains students how to be members of society and I want to thank the staff of Beehive that have made it an environment in which students can thrive. Each teacher truly cares not only about what they teach, but about the individual success of each student.”

Kibarova added: “Beehive Academy gave me the chance to work toward the future that I had envisioned for myself and since that education has always been important to me, it helped me take steps toward pursuing my goal.”

Utah Association of Public Charter Schools Communications Director Gina James is excited about Beehive’s future.

“I’m thrilled that Beehive, as one of our top schools in the state, will be able to expand and still offer technology, science, math and all the great, innovative things they do to even more students,” she said.