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Open for Business: Union Middle School welcomes students, parents to first back-to-school night

Fresh paint and shining stained-glass windows welcomed hundreds into the spacious hallways and sparkling new classrooms at Union Middle at the school’s grand opening celebration.

“Wow!” “Oh my goodness!” “This is amazing!” are just a few of the reactions from parents as they toured the hallways for the first time. The Bobcats, who started the year remote learning while construction crews worked day and night to ready classrooms and common areas, spent the day prior getting acquainted with their new school. But this was a first glimpse for many families. 

“This is an accomplishment for which we should all be proud. This is your school house,” Canyons Board of Education Vice President Mont Millerberg told families at the Sept. 6, 2023 ribbon cutting and open house. “Recognizing that strong communities are essential to building a bright future for our children, you said ‘yes’ to two school improvement bonds. You said ‘yes’ to an investment in our collective future.”

The Union Middle rebuild is one of 23 school improvement projects completed in CSD’s 15 years of operation. In its earliest days, the District set an ambitious goal of updating the aging schools that were inherited from a previous district. Many of the schools, like Union, were built in the 50s and early 60s, and required such significant repairs and seismic upgrades that it was determined to be less expensive to rebuild them than to try to update them. 

As Canyons Superintendent Rick Robins remarked, “now students will have a school building that supports their highest ambitions and aspirations.”

Union Middle School students Serenity Lawlor and Addilyn Coleman

Students Serenity Lawlor and Addilyn Coleman are starting 8th grade this year and say the new building is much bigger than their old one. Lawlor says she’s excited about the gym and cafeteria, “it got so much bigger, there are a lot more areas to sit with your friends and chill with people,” Lawlor said.

Coleman says it’s much less cramped, “I really like the LED lights, I think it’s so cool and bright, it’s very colorful,” said Coleman.

The school, which was designed by VCBO Architects and built by Hughes General Contractors, boasts a ninja warrior style playground, a gym with adaptive equipment, a high-tech media center and a library filled with new books.

But, for faculty and staff, it’s the durability, safety, and functionality of the building that they appreciate most. 

Brianne Duffy has been teaching science education for seven years, four of those at Union Middle School. Having worked in the old building and now starting out the school year in the new building, she says she’s hoping to see her students grow. “I am really excited to see them enjoy this space, truly,” Duffy said. “I loved the old school and I felt attached to my space in the old school but I know that this space will offer so much more to them in an age-appropriate way.”

The grand opening event drew nearly 1,000 community members, including alumni, and former teachers and administrators, members of Canyons Board of Education, Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction Syd Dickson, lawmakers, and the mayors of Sandy and Midvale and some of their council members. 

To all those in attendance, Principal Brenda McCann offering words of gratitude. In a show of appreciation for passage of the school improvement bond that made the building possible, Union teachers stood up and showed the backs of their t-shirts, which displayed the words, “thank you.”

“Simple right? Two words: ‘thank you.’ But trust me when I say we take those words to heart,” McCann said.  “Students, you are among the first to step foot in this new school, and I know you’ll show your gratitude by making the most of your time here. I know you’ll show us all what it means to have Bobcat pride.”

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Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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