Grand County Middle School’s facilities have seen better days, and while it’s feasible to bring them into the 21st Century, school officials say it’s more practical to build a new school from scratch.

The Grand County Board of Education voted last month to hire MHTN Architects of Salt Lake City to begin the design process for a campus that would replace the existing school on 100 East.

Grand County School Superintendent JT Stroder told the Moab Sun News that board members held a workshop last September to talk about options for the school. When they learned that it would cost about $14 million to remodel the existing school, compared with $17 to $20 million to build a new facility, Stroder said they all reached the same conclusion.

“They decided, for that amount of money, it was probably worth building a new building,” he said.

However, they haven’t determined whether the school district should build the school on the current site behind City Market, or on vacant district-owned property on Mill Creek Drive where Red Rocks Elementary once stood before it was demolished.

Grand County Board of Education member Britnie Ellis said the board’s discussion about the middle school project is ongoing.

“As far as where, how and what, we’re right in the middle of that,” Ellis said.

“We’re really early in the process,” Stroder added. “We don’t have the specifics yet on where it’s going to be, or how big it’s going to be.”

Money for the project would most likely come from the school district’s capital projects fund, Stroder said.

MHTN Architects – the same firm that designed Helen M. Knight Elementary – will be working this spring to set up stakeholder meetings with local residents, Stroder said. At that point, he said, people will have opportunities to share their thoughts about the project, where it should be located and what it should look like.

“I think that the soonest we could see building (is) the summer of 2019, and I think that’s probably pushing it a little bit,” Stroder said.

Grand County School District Business Administrator Robert Farnsworth said the existing school dates back to Moab’s uranium boom years of the 1950s.

In 2007 or so, he said, a previous education board conducted a facilities study of the district’s properties that identified the middle school as a high priority project.

“It’s always kind of been on the radar since then to address some of the concerns they had at the middle school,” Farnsworth said.

Stroder said that the state of the current school’s exterior walls is perhaps the biggest of those concerns. The exteriors are not reinforced, and if an earthquake happened to strike the Moab Valley, the structural integrity of the walls could be at risk.

“In the rare event that something was to happen, that would be an issue,” Stroder said.

The school is also out of compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in “many, many” areas, Stroder said, and its plumbing system is antiquated.

“It’s older metal pipes, so there’s some concern with (those),” he said.

Just recently, he noted, electrical cables that ran across the school’s roof had to be replaced because they were not adequately protected from the elements.

A July 2012 educational adequacy assessment from MHTN found other deficiencies at the school, resulting in an overall grade of a “C+.”

The survey gave the existing school’s educational environment an average grade of a “C-minus,” with “Ds” in the areas of small and large group instruction, among other measured areas.

Among other things, surveyors reported that the school lacks a specific space where students and teachers can break into small group areas, and that absence can create noisy and confined spaces, they found. It also lacks spaces for active and quiet independent learning, MHTN reported.

The school’s environmental systems averaged a “C,” but within that average, the firm gave the school “Ds” for ventilation, classroom acoustics, and teacher-controlled heating and cooling.

Overall, MHTN found that the classrooms are too cold during the winter months, and too warm or not comfortable in the spring and fall. Heating and air conditioning units generate “windy noise” and impact learning, the architect reported.

Board weighed spending $14 million to remodel vs. $17 to $20 million for new facility

We’re really early in the process … We don’t have the specifics yet on where it’s going to be, or how big it’s going to be.