Midvalley Elementary Principal Tamra Baker arrived at school bright and early on Monday, Aug. 24 to make sure final preparations had been completed in time for an historic moment for her school community.
It would be a day of firsts for Baker’s Jr. Huskies: The first day back at school since schools were shuttered five months ago to stem the spread of COVID-19, the first day of the 2020-2021 school year, and the first day in a shiny new school that was completed just in time for classes to start.
The usual first-day jitters, felt by students all across Canyons who also started on Monday, were compounded by the fact that Midvalley Elementary students had never before set foot into their new building, and they had only been able to greet their new teachers via online meetings.
But Baker strived to make sure the first-day events went off without a hitch – and they did.
In addition to welcoming teachers and students — and handling any last-minute tasks — Baker spent the morning assigning volunteers from CSD’s central office to their respective posts where they would guide students through the new building and to their new classrooms.
“Parents felt calm today because they knew good people would be in the building taking care of their kids when they walked through that door,” Baker said.
Midvalley’s previous building, built in 1957, was the oldest in the District. The new elementary is the fifth Midvale-area school to be rebuilt with proceeds from two voter-approved bonds since the inception of Canyons on July 1, 2009. The new building is seismically safe, more energy-efficient, and better able to support today’s teaching technologies.
To reduce costs, architects modeled its design after other elementary schools in the area. When students entered on Monday, they marveled at the high ceilings, large rooms, and spacious hallways.
Parent Sara Peck was excited for her children to return to school. “I think it’s going to turn out well,” she said about the school year. “My kids have never been so excited to go back to school. We are just hoping things go smoothly and that we can keep going back to school.”
Tori Gillett, School Counseling Specialist for CSD’s Responsive Services Department, sat inside one of the stairwells at Midvalley Elementary on Monday morning to guide students to their classes, making sure each student was properly wearing their face coverings and distancing physically.
“As the adults, we are trying to be examples to these students,” Gillett said. “It’s a new normal, but I’m just excited to have the kids back and see their faces and feel their energy.”
First-grade teacher Emily Stringham said the first day would “be the true test of everything … I’m a little nervous for all the masks and the cleaning, and all the new routines we are starting, but I’m excited to see the kids.”
Canyons has invested $1 million for hospital-grade cleaners and disinfectants. Custodial staff has also been increased by 25 percent, and deep cleaning procedures will be implemented much more often to keep students and staff members safe throughout the school year.
For Baker, the newness of this school year is heightened by the newness of the school building.
“We want school to feel safe and happy and as normal as possible for these kids,” Baker said, “and what a beautiful space to do it in.”
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