Last month, the Tooele County School Board voted to keep West Elementary School open for at least one more year “as is,” with no boundaries, except kindergarten, and an enrollment of first through sixth grade of all German dual language immersion students.
This month, the school board voted to spend $225,000 to fix “essential” health and safety items on a list of requested capital projects for the West Elementary building, part of which are over 60 years old.
The school board voted to approve a list of capital projects for West Elementary School that totals $225,000 during their May 9 meeting at the district office.
“As long as we have students in the building we have to make sure the building is safe and secure,” said board member Bob Gowans.
Gowans said for 12-years the district has been putting off maintenance issues at West because the plan has been to rebuild or replace the school.
“We can’t wait any longer,” he said.
Among the essential items funded are; $12,500 to replace classroom sink fixture to address lead contamination issues, $17,500 for carbon monoxide detectors, $12,000 to secure the playground with fencing, $500 to remove unsafe playground equipment, $8,200 for ceiling repairs, $5,500 to replace the main office air condition unit.
Also on the essential list; $2,500 for emergency lighting, $10,000 to $20,000 for new controls for the boiler, $26,000 to upgrade exterior doors, $40,000 to upgrade interior doors, $55,000 to replace the PA system and $25,000 to install security cameras.
The door replacement will equip the school with exterior doors that will stay closed and locked. Some of the doors close but they are so heavy they hit people and smash fingers and then sometimes don’t stay latched. Interior doors also need to be replaced to make the school safe during lockdowns.
The PA system doesn’t provide sound throughout the building causing some people to miss safety drills or not be able to hear or understand essential announcements and safety information.
Last winter, some teachers and students occasionally wore coats, hats and gloves in classrooms as the building’s boiler pilot light would go out and had to be manually relit.
Originally, the district maintenance staff recommended that the boiler be replaced at an estimated cost of $275,000 but the staff found that new controls for the boiler at $10,000 to $20,000 will fix the problem, according to Ian Silva, TCSD operations director.
“We’re currently looking for those new controls,” he said.
The original West Elementary building was constructed in 1959 with a media center addition in 1968, a classroom addition in 1989 and a kitchen addition in 1990.
“We have to fund the essential things to make the building safe,” said Melissa Rich, TCSD school board president.
In 2013, over 100 angry West Elementary parents showed up at a school board meeting when it was rumored the school, with enrollment at 58% of capacity, might be closed as a cost savings measure to balance the school district’s budget.
Instead of closing the school, in 2014, West Elementary became one of the first elementary schools in Tooele County to offer DLI. It was the first German DLI school in the state with an associated STEM program. By 2019, only 87 out of 440 students that attended West Elementary were not enrolled in the German DLI program. Concern that West Elementary did not have enough classrooms to accommodate more non-DLI classes at each grade level as the DLI program grew into upper grades caused the school board to strip West Elementary of any boundaries for attendance other than kindergarten. The non-DLI students in the school’s former boundaries were sent to neighboring schools. West became the school district’s first all DLI school.
In the fall of 2023, West Elementary had a total enrollment of 205 students — 34 in kindergarten and 171 in German DLI, according to a state enrollment report.
Why don’t you mention the special needs classroom? This is a big deal and I have had 4 kids go through west and 3 of them went through the Autism classroom.