Construction of the new Grand County Middle School continues right on schedule.
The Times-Independent took a tour of the next home of the Thunderbirds. The footprint is large and built with growth in mind, to the possibility of accommodating up to 500 seventh and eighth graders.
The front entrance opens up to a spacious foyer, with a staircase to the second floor and hallways branching off on the sides. The main floor primarily consists of classrooms, a cafeteria that will double as an auditorium with a stage, full-functioning kitchen, prototype shop, lecture hall, a seating area (much like the high school’s pride rock steps) that will have access to a smart wall and complete with an enormous gym.
The second floor holds more classrooms, a media center, and an expansive library complete with glass walls with a view of the cliffs of Moab.
The kitchen is perhaps one of the most advanced in Grand County. Before, food for the middle school used to be prepared at the high school kitchen and driven down for students. That is not the case anymore, and food from the new middle school could be trucked back up to the high school. The kitchen equipment is scheduled for delivery on Monday, July 13.
The architecture is similar to what is featured at HMK Elementary. “Almost identical, just a different configuration of materials,” said Gaylen Fawson, the project superintendent, “It’s the same architects that built HMK.”
Significant aspects of the project near completion, but others haven’t even began — and one of them could delay the opening. Per code, every building has to have a fire lane that wraps around the entire facility to allow complete access to fire trucks.
The nearby shared path, part of the Mill Creek Parkway, is in the way and there are incumbent flood concerns from the federal bureaucracy.
“The problem was always the redirection of the shared path, but with this fire lane and the way it’s going in conjunction with the path, it’s all in the flood zone. The flood zone is administered by the federal government, and nowadays by FEMA,” said Fawson. “So any work we do here has to be approved by FEMA and the federal government, in conjunction with the city. We have to redirect this shared path somewhere for the enjoyment of the community, and at the same time we’ve got to put the fire lane in.”
A fire lane will take a couple of months to build. Redirecting the path proved more problematic than expected and, due to the aforementioned flooding concerns, the plan is to build a retaining wall between the fire lane and the bike path.
Until a fire lane is built, the school cannot open to students. The Grand County School District board is slated to discuss and possibly take action on the fire lane issue at its Wednesday meeting, July 15.
Funds are still on track for the project overall, with no other major hiccups disrupting the process.
If all goes well, the school will open after the Christmas season, with everything from the old school moved to the new one over winter break. Students should be moved over, as well, by January. The old school will be demolished, perhaps as early as next spring.
“We were trying to have the building occupiable by this coming Winter Break,” says Fawson.