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Sandy Journal

Generations of students, staff remember fun times at Bell View Elementary

Jul 01, 2022 09:47AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When school resumes in August, youngsters won’t be filing into Bell View Elementary as they have since 1966.

Instead, those schoolchildren and those of the former Edgemont Elementary will join at the new Glacier Hills Elementary. The former Bell View Elementary will be the new home for Diamond Ridge and Entrada students.

However, before the campus started to be revamped for older students, many former students and staff came to walk through the halls, see Mustang T-shirts hung in the school gym and page through PTA minutes and scrapbooks and school yearbooks—and reminisce.

“It’s a chance for everyone to mingle and celebrate Bell View,” said Tamra Baker, the last principal to serve the elementary school. “It’s fun to walk around and relive those memories of being a child in the building.”

That’s what Mario Tapia was doing as he remembered getting Otter Pops after the school jogathon and built a bunker in the snow-covered wood chips and threw snowballs—which were allowed in the early 2000s, he said.

“We also made a giant snowman,” he said. “But our forts would disappear every night.”

It was at this gathering Tapia learned his former principal, Howard Griffith, would drive his jeep onto the school playground at night to knock down the snow forts.

“Someone even called the police on me once because I was racing around on the school grounds,” he said. “I knew the policemen and I would explain what I was doing. The students always built the forts back up, but I always had fun racing around the snow in my jeep.”

Now the campus, with mature trees, doesn’t quite look the same, he said, adding that he always joined in playing tetherball and basketball with the students. Some nearby houses have been removed, making it easier for bus traffic into the school’s parking lot in recent years.

“It was always very difficult back then to go in and out, especially with a lot of snow,” he said. “We always had issues with buses.”

The campus in his day had about 550 students compared to a little over half that today. Back then, it had been recently renovated to closing the open classrooms.

Bell View was Griffith’s first principalship; he currently serves at West Jordan High as vice principal, his seventh school in administration.

“We had some fun times. I remember Halloween, dressing up as Fred Flintstone,” he said. “It was very chilly; it was a very authentic costume.”

The campus also had a hero assembly honoring local law enforcement and firefighters soon after kidnapped teenager Elizabeth Smart was found safely in Sandy.

“We wanted to let them know how much we appreciated them, and it gave our students a strong sense of community,” he said.

The students also rallied around their custodian, Hourimane Onechann, who came to the country to earn money for his family in Laos.

“We collected balls and stuff and he’d repair any that needed it and took those back to his home country to give to neighborhood kids. We gave him a ton of money which he also took to help his community,” Griffith said.

Jordan Bagley and Makoa Scholes were sixth-grade student body officers at the school then and credit their careers in video and film from their experience at Bell View.

“We’d do the morning video announcements; it was our favorite thing,” Bagley said. “We’d talk about current events at the school.”

Scholes said they’d lead the pledge and write scripts, then shoot the video.

“We would talk to sweepers, which we got in trouble for distracting them, but we’d find out what it was like to do that job,” he said. “We’d interview classes about what they were doing. We talked about grandparents’ day, the jogathon, the library and just kind of had free rein filming what was going on.”

Bagley said that with his mother (Jennifer Bagley, current head administrative assistant) working in the office and then Scholes’ mother teaching sixth grade, they felt as if they ran the school.

“During one of the parent-teacher conferences, we were hanging out back and some kid said we should push the incinerator button, so we did. We didn’t even know what it was and then it started smoking. We ran inside and hid, but we got found out. Mr. Griffith acted like he was super mad, but I could tell he felt sorry for us since we didn’t know what it would do,” the former student said.

As a way to make amends, the boys were told to count the General Mills’ Box Tops for Education, which students collected to earn new playground equipment.

“We volunteered to do that way too often as we found there was candy in a drawer there,” Bagley said.

“It was good candy, too,” Scholes said.

Students weren’t the only ones who pulled antics in the day.

Retired teacher Bill Garber, who taught second, fourth and fifth graders from 1992 to 2012, remembered teaming up with former principal Bill Geist to pull one over on students.

“I was talking about physical versus chemical changes and in came Principal Geist and he said he could better illustrate it and cut the tie I was wearing to show physical change to the students,” he said, remembering the gasps coming from the students. “We had it prearranged I’d wear an old tie that day, but it was a lot of fun. Bell View was a wonderful place to work, and I thoroughly enjoyed the students.”