Today's High School Construction More Customized Than a Textbook

Courtney Williams's picture
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

High school buildings these days just aren't what they used to be — and that's an intentional change by districts to benefit students, taxpayers and the environment.

Along the Wasatch Front, schools currently under construction all employ new techniques and technologies that make this generation of facilities very different from the buildings they're replacing.

"The focus of education has become a lot more individualized over the past decade, and our facilities reflect that," said Ben Horsley, spokesman for the Granite School District. "We don't have that factory model mentality anymore."

A 50-acre lot in West Valley is currently home to two high schools, one of which is the storied Granger High. The other is its replacement, which is currently under construction.

Nine miles to the east, a similar scene is unfolding as work on the new Olympus High is under way while class remains in session in the old building. The two older buildings were basically carbon copies of each other when they were first built in the 1950s, but the new structures taking their places will be unique to fit the needs of two different communities.

"A lot of people wonder why we don't have some standard plan," Horsley said. "It's really hard to duplicate a plan at any given site. ... Our students are different, our communities are different and they need different things for their communities."

The district held several meetings and took feedback from community members to see what mattered to them. Granger, for instance, will keep its wood shop, but the new Olympus won't, because that's what the respective communities wanted. Both new Granite high schools will have rebuilt swimming pools on site because the facilitates meet needs well beyond the schools' respective swim teams.

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