West Jordan community says goodbye to 60-year-old school building
Jun 20, 2019 01:51PM
By Jet Burnham
There was a steady flow of visitors during the farewell open house for West Jordan Middle School. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
A steady stream of community members, current and former students and staff explored the hallways of West Jordan Middle School for the last time during a farewell open house before the 60-year-old school was demolished.
“It's been wonderful for those of us who've been here today and to hear your stories and see you reminisce,” said Principal Dixie Garrison, the 15th and current principal of the school.
Doug Richards (who attended the school from 1962 to 1965) and his wife, Bonnie Richards (former teacher at WJMS), said touring the old building brought back many great memories. It was in his ninth-grade math class that Richards, inspired by his math teacher Glenn Beree, decided he wanted to be a teacher. He remembers the photography dark room and woodshop class, which is where he was during an earthquake in 1962.
Jordan District Board of Education Member Marilyn Richardson (‘62–‘65) remembers the earthquake as well when her homeroom teacher ran out of the room in a panic. She also remembers the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.
“I remember exactly where I was: upstairs science room, on the very far end of the hall, fourth period,” she said.
Richardson and her siblings attended the school for a continuous span of 15 years. Then Richardson was hired as a teacher from 1972–1985.
“I have quite a history here at West Jordan Middle/Junior,” she said. “We were a continuous fixture here; we had a 28-year continuous time here.”
West Jordan Junior High was the school that every student west of the Jordan River attended when it first opened in 1958, creating a multigenerational tradition of attending West Jordan Junior or West Jordan Middle, as it is currently known.
“I have great memories of junior high,” said Lisa Taylor Mitchell (‘88–‘91), whose mother and aunt (Bonnie Richards) attended West Jordan Junior High. She followed in their footsteps, married a fellow alumnus (Jeremy Mitchell, ‘90–’93), and their daughter, Emma, just completed her eighth-grade year in the same building.
“It’s been fun and nostalgic for me to have her here,” said Mitchell. She said the building hasn’t changed at all—even the tile in the bathroom is the same. “I totally remember teasing my bangs in the bathroom with my buddies—and it’s all the same.”
As student body secretary her ninth-grade year, Mitchell was part of the mascot change from the Shamrocks to the White Lions. The mascot was later changed to Lions. Emma served on student government this year and has been involved in preparing the move to the new school building this fall.
The farewell celebration was an opportunity for community members and alumni to preorder bricks, lockers and other fixtures from the old building, available after its demolition this summer.
Because of its central location, spacious auditorium and swimming pool, West Jordan Middle School has been a community center and educational epicenter for the west side since 1958.
“I think that most people that grew up in West Jordan has at least one or more experiences of swimming in the swimming pool,” said Jen Atwood who attended WJMS from 1989 to 1991 and is now a member of the district’s Board of Education.
The pool was closed a few years ago. Now the rest of the school will be demolished and replaced by a brand-new building where the spirit of the school will continue on.
“It's not really the building, it's the people,” said Garrison. “The people and how they made you feel is what you're going to remember from this great building. So, while we're sad to see it go, we're also very excited and energized, and we're very grateful to the school board and to you all in this community for voting for that bond and giving us a replacement building.”
The farewell celebration program featured comments from present and former students and staff as well as music performed by current and former choir and orchestra members. Lauren Flygare, faculty member from 1980–2015 and one of only three band teachers over the school’s 60-year span, performed The Beatles song “In My Life” on her violin with the poignant lyrics displayed for the audience.
Audience members enthusiastically joined in singing the school song and fight song. The evening ended with a video presentation and the orchestra and band performing the rock band Europe’s riveting tune, “The Final Countdown.”