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Remembering West Jordan Middle School’s history

Jun 05, 2017 11:33AM ● Published by Tori LaRue

Twins Tyler and Katelyn Blodgett participate in the groundbreaking of the new WJMS building. They will be in the first seventh-grade class when the new school opens for the 2019–2020 school year. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

Gallery: Remembering West Jordan Middle School’s history [4 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Jet Burnham | j.burnham@mycityjournals.com

The community came together to celebrate the history and the future of West Jordan Middle School at the May 1 groundbreaking of its new school building.

“We see this school as being a community center, and by that I mean memories are made in our schools,” said Principal Dixie Garrison.

The school has been a key feature of the south valley for 59 years. It has educated students from West Jordan, South Jordan, Riverton, Bluffdale, Herriman, Copperton and Lark. It was formerly known as West Jordan Junior High and included grades six through eight. Its pool has provided thousands of children with swimming lessons. Its auditorium, the largest in the district, has hosted numerous community events.

Built in 1958, WJMS is the oldest school building in Jordan District.

When it is replaced by the new building in two years, it will not be forgotten. Tim Brooks, who taught for 12 years and was assistant principal for six years at the beloved school, has preserved the memories of generations of WJMS students. Brooks digitally catalogued the school’s history from scrapbooks, photos and artifacts (T-shirts, band uniforms, text books, school records, etc.) and posted them on Facebook.

“The response was epic,” Brooks said. Former students and faculty saw the photos and reminisced through posted comments.

            More than 3,000 pictures are accessible to the community in photo albums on the school’s Facebook page.

Current WJMS student body president Isaac Atwood said the historical collection has motivated the student body to think about their legacy.

“We can look back on the past and use it as inspiration to do even better in the future,” he said.

The photos document, school traditions, the transition of the school mascot from Shamrocks to Lions and activities, as well as a proud history of sporting and staff and student achievement.

“I can’t go anywhere without talking with people who have been touched by events throughout time that have happened here at WJMS,” Garrison said. “It seems to be family to most of us here.” And for her it is. Her father, Bruce Garrison, was also a principal at WJMS.

Retired Custodian Scott Bateman’s father was a principal at the school, too. Before he was head custodian for 25 years, Bateman attended the school as a student.

Bateman has seen a lot of changes to the building. He remembers when the auditorium seats were shipped to Texas to be reupholstered and when water was pumped for the sprinkling system from the school’s well and when there was a storage closet where the elevator is today.

As much as the community has loved the old building, educators are eager to move forward with the new one. Garrison said she is grateful to the staff for creatively working with the limitations of an old building.

 “The teachers at this school deliver a quality education and a high level of effective instruction on duct tape and twine,” said Garrison.

The new building, which will be completed for the 2019–2020 school year, will have much needed technology upgrades, a bigger cafeteria and shared learning spaces.

“The whole layout is really designed around a learning community,” said MHTN architect Brian Parker.

Faculty, students and community members were joined at the groundbreaking by various dignitaries including Superintendent Patrice Johnson, Utah School Board members; West Jordan Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Aisza Wilde; Police Chief Doug Diamond; Fire Chief Marc McElreath; Utah State House of Representatives Susan Pulsipher and Kim Coleman; West Jordan City Councilman Dirk Burton; West Jordan Mayor Kim Rolfe; Community Council President Kim Underwood; WJMS PTA President Melissa Gardner; and Region Six PTA President Dawn Ramsey.

 “The children deserve this building, and I couldn’t be happier for them,” Rolfe said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

In addition to remarks by Garrison, Johnson, Rolfe and the SBO president, the school’s combined choir, advanced orchestra and symphonic band performed the school song. Then dignitaries and community members were invited to shovel dirt at the construction site in the field behind the existing school.

Those who have been a part of WJMS’s history realize it is not just about the building but the community it creates.

“The experiences you have and the memories you make are not a result of where you are but the people you are with,” said Atwood. “What really makes this school something special are the people in it.”

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