The house that stood in front of the Moab Charter School campus on 300 South was demolished on Wednesday, June 12 to open the campus and create more space for students and staff alike.
New facilities will be built in its place by Aug. 1, in order for staff and students to return to campus when school resumes on Aug. 14.
Joseph Heywood, director of the school, said the original house was difficult to remodel for school purposes. As a school, the state requires two-story buildings to have American Disability Act (ADA) requirements such as wheelchair access and an elevator. He said that with the way the house was built, these remodels were not possible
“It was not really practical to try and remodel the house that was on the property, so after comparing a number of different alternatives, the board determined that it would be best to demolish the existing home on the property and install new classrooms, restrooms and offices for the charter school staff,” said Randy Martin, the chair of the school’s board of directors.
Enrollment is at its highest since the school opened in 2004, with 127 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. More space and better facilities were a necessity, Heywood said.
“As the enrollment expanded, the school became more and more serious about buying the property, which had been a standing offer to us with the inception of the school in 2004. It kind of picked up momentum in the last two years and become a necessity because of the added enrollment,” Heywood said.
A USDA loan that caters to rural properties helped them acquire the property in 2012.
The house itself also sat awkwardly on campus, leaving dead space, Heywood said.
The remodel will include bringing in two new portable buildings. One will hold a classroom and the other will be for administrative offices at the front of campus.
The gravel will be replaced with cement walkways and a larger grass courtyard.
“It certainly took a lot of inquiry,” said board member Beth Logan regarding the planning process. “The board of directors spent 12 months searching for property in the Moab-area. We preferred to have a nicer piece of land and just build, but the pricing just didn’t work out.”
However, the board discovered that while the building didn’t meet their needs, the property’s location was ideal.
“The location of the current school and the value afforded to us by the former property owner was an ideal match for our needs,” Logan said. “The location’s proximity to the Youth Garden Project, the Mill Creek Parkway, Museum of Moab, Star Hall, and the Grand County Library support the school’s focus on delivering the Utah Core Curriculum enhanced with outdoor education, arts, and music.”
Logan said it is sad to see brick buildings demolished.
“But the building materials used in that original construction would no longer meet the building code requirements once we began to make changes,” Logan said.
The board of directors were in contact with people who had originally lived in the home and offered relocation of rose bushes to them as well as others in the community who had expressed interest.”
Apart from the lack of space, the number of students required the remodel.
“Really, the up in student enrollment drove the decision,” Logan said.
The school also plans to remodel their multi-purpose building to add bathrooms and a half-kitchen. The room is now used as a school lunchroom, gymnasium and for different activities such as assemblies.
There is also talk of eventually expanding to include seventh and eighth grades to the school in the future.
“Definitely, from our point of view, we think its wise to have an alternative for public schools for kids,” Logan said. “With our classrooms being almost at capacity right now, we are at that stage of saying, ‘five years down the road, we should be looking for another piece of property somewhere else.’ We will have more funding underneath us by then.”
The school now has a maximum capacity of 140 students with 20 students per grade and classroom. There is only one class per grade from kindergarten to sixth grade.
“We are a snapshot of Moab. We have the same demographics as the local district; it’s just kind of a wide variety of students from the community,” Heywood said regarding the student enrollment at the charter school. “The school provides the same curriculum as the larger public schools, but we focus more on the outdoor learning aspect and creativity that comes along with it.”
He said that the school follows the same state standards and take the same state tests at the end of the year.
“But I give them a lot of freedom in how the staff gets there. So while there are some common threads throughout the grades curriculum-wise, each teacher has the independence and autonomy to use their expertise and experience from their unique university settings to develop the program and curriculum inside that classroom and the kids that are sitting in front of them,” Heywood said.
He said that they try to have a strong art program and have made it a core focus of the curriculum.
“We also are trying to develop a stronger and stronger outdoor ed and science program with partnership through Dead Horse State Park through the last couple years. That might become something unique as well,” Heywood said.
A charter school is created when a group of parents or community members come together and form a governing board. It is a two-year process to write a charter through the state procedures through the State’s Office of Education.
The Moab Charter School wrote in 2004 that they would have a small school and small classrooms, capped at 20 students each.
Heywood has been working with the Moab Charter School for five years and earned his doctorate in education from Utah State University. Prior to becoming the director of the charter school, Heywood worked as a school administrator in Arizona. All staff are certified teachers. There are two doctorates on staff, as well as multiple masters degrees in education.
We preferred to have a nicer piece of land and just build, but the pricing just didn’t work out.”