New Legacy Elementary School walls rising; first 2-story elementary to be built in district

ST. GEORGE — The newest addition to the Washington County School District is making rapid progress with walls going up and workers swarming over the site of the soon-to-be Legacy Elementary School.

The new Legacy Elementary School is undergoing rapid construction in St. George, Utah, April 8, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
The new Legacy Elementary School is undergoing rapid construction in St. George, Utah, April 8, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

The new building will replace the aged East Elementary located at 600 East in St. George. The East Elementary building will become property of Dixie State University, which plans on utilizing it as their School of Education building.

The Legacy Elementary site is located at 100 South, just west of the Dixie Sunbowl. It is being built by Bud Mahas Construction.

Craig Hammer, executive director of secondary education and physical facilities for the Washington County School District said, the decision to construct the new building was overdue.

“East Elementary was built in the mid-50s, it’s by far our oldest elementary,” Hammer said. “It needs some real service upgrades and some work and for us it was time to build a new one.”

The board made the decision to build the new elementary school as a two-story structure on 5.6 acres, the site of the former Elks Baseball Field, making it the first of its kind in the growing school district.

The new Legacy Elementary School is undergoing rapid construction in St. George, Utah, March 23, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
The new Legacy Elementary School is undergoing rapid construction in St. George, Utah, March 23, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

The project was initiated in a three-way deal between Dixie State University, the City of St. George and the Washington County School District, Hammer said.

Dixie State was interested in acquiring the East Elementary property, but the district needed to have an elementary school in St. George. A land swap allowed the city to build a new baseball field in Bloomington (to replace losing use of the baseball field), Dixie State would take over East Elementary, and the school district would build Legacy Elementary.

“It worked out good for all three entities,” Hammer said.

Construction on the project is expected to be completed in the fall, with the new school ready to be occupied by December.

One of the inspirations for the new school came from Provo, where the Alpine School District built a new elementary school similar in structure to the Legacy building. The newest addition to the Alpine School District is credited with helping rejuvenate the neighborhood in which it resides.

“It just revitalized the whole downtown community,” Hammer said.

Larry Bergeson, superintendent for the Washington County School District, said one of the reasons for deciding to build a two-story structure was the future of the historic Dixie Sunbowl. If the district was going to build by its standard model, 10 acres would be needed. That meant the Sunbowl would have to be demolished. Bergeson said:

Do we keep the Sunbowl, do we not? If you’re really going to build an elementary right there on that lot, there wasn’t enough ground. So in the middle of that discussion, wanting to help out, if we could — as we always try in the Southern Utah area to do — we discussed, let’s put a smaller footprint for that school. What if we go up, instead of out, which was kind of our protocol.

Despite the more vertical design, the new school will have the same number of classrooms and facilities as all the other elementary schools in the district, with one additional bonus: a full length, wood-floor, high-school sized gymnasium, which not all of the other elementary schools have. By building the gym to this size, it will allow the City of St. George to utilize the space for recreational use, Bergeson said.

The new Legacy Elementary School is undergoing rapid construction in St. George, Utah, March 23, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
The new Legacy Elementary School is undergoing rapid construction in St. George, Utah, March 23, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

The school is expected to be a draw for people considering living in the downtown area, Bergeson said, adding there is a lot of excitement building among the staff of East Elementary.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of excitement about ‘new’, when you talk to the East Elementary teachers and staff and principal and parents for that matter,” he said. “They’re going to love the school. It will have all the technology, the sciences, all the classrooms that we need.“

The school will offer preschool and a dual-immersion Spanish-language program.

“We’re excited for everything it has to offer, and feel the community is and the city is as well,” Bergeson said.

Teria Mortensen, principal of East Elementary, said there was a growing sense of anticipation and enthusiasm for the new school.

I know the students are excited, they’ve been watching the walls go up,” Mortensen said. “It’s just an exciting time.”

Despite the sparkling new facilities, Mortensen said what makes up the heart of East Elementary — the teachers and students — would remain the same.

“The school, the teachers and the students is what makes the school to me. We have that here,” Mortensen said. “The teachers are really what makes the difference for the students and the students are what really makes our school.”

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Email: dgilman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

 

 

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