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Construction Delays New Middle School’s Opening Again

Sep 9, 2019, 10:53 PM | Updated: Jul 16, 2023, 4:11 pm

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah – Some students still don’t have a classroom over three weeks into the new school year after the State Fire Marshall denied occupancy to Lake Mountain Middle School.

The announcement on Monday pushed the already-delayed opening of the school back even further.

“First thing I do when I wake up in the morning is look outside to see if all the construction workers are there,” said resident Troy Whittier, as he looked past his backyard fence at the new middle school in Saratoga Springs.

Every day of construction had led up to Monday, which was supposed to be the final day of empty classrooms.

“Today I was surprised there were so many working late,” Whittier said. “See those lamps? They were putting those up past 5 o’clock.”

But it will still be several more days before Whittier, who has two middle school-aged children, sees the lights turn on.

In a statement, Hogan Construction said it “has been working with the fire marshal over the past several months to understand his expectations in order to safely open the school. While all of the critical life safety and egress requirements were in place today, the fire marshal wanted to see a higher level of finish in the occupiable areas.”

“They thought they were going to be done so they keep kickin’ the can down the street, so to speak,” Whittier said.

“My faculty and I are extremely frustrated by this news,” said Principal Mark Whitaker in a message to parents. “(The fire marshal) was uncomfortable with the amount of finish work and cleaning the contractor had left to do. Hogan Construction was confident they would gain occupancy based on previous visits and conversations with the fire marshal. Despite their assurances, it did not happen.”

MORE: New Saratoga Springs Middle School Building Will Not Be Ready For First Day Of School

Alpine School District said last month that other projects in the area had delayed construction by four months.​ That, combined with a wet winter and spring pushed the opening date to September 10​ and prompted school officials to implement a blended learning model for the first three weeks of school.

The temporary model combines online instruction, using the online learning platform Canvas, and face-to-face opportunities with teachers. Students have had the option to meet with teachers in the trailers on the campus of Vista Heights Middle School.

“For parents who don’t have someone at home, it can be stressful,” said Whittier, who has spoken to several other parents about the delayed opening and the online learning his children and others have been participating in. “Some like it. Some are really having a difficult time.”

Whittier said his seventh-grade daughter cried when she learned the school opening would be pushed back. “She’s in drama and so she can’t go to drama class or go to dance, or all the extracurricular activities,” he said.

However, his ninth-grade son Matthew had a different attitude. “I was kind of happy because I’m behind in my school work and I should not be,” he said. “It gives me one more week to catch up and keep going.”

“I guess he has this idea that he doesn’t have to have it all completed until the school opens,” Whittier said.

For now, the online learning will continue, along with the open labs provided at Vista Heights Middle School, and for those who need it, transportation and school meals.

There is no new date set for the school opening. But Hogan Construction said, “Our construction team will continue to do everything possible and anticipate meeting this level of finish early next week and achieving occupancy as soon as possible.”

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Construction Delays New Middle School’s Opening Again