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Murray Journal

New Hillcrest Junior High Dedicated, Ready For Students

Sep 14, 2015 11:28AM ● By Bryan Scott

Hillcrest Junior High

By Julie Slama

More than 60 years have passed since Lloyd Naylor walked the halls of Hillcrest, then Murray High.  Even though Naylor could have been sad to know it was the last time he was walking through the old school that evening in late June, he knew students were ready for the new Hillcrest Junior High.

“It was time to build a new school,” Naylor said, and added that once again he got lost in the dead-end corridors and endless stairs of his former school that was built in 1911 and had five building additions.

Naylor, who was recognized Aug. 6 for his part on the Board of Education which voted to rebuild Hillcrest Junior High, came to the official dedication that hosted about 200 current and former students, faculty and staff, the principal, current and former Board of Education members and community and education leaders.

“These students didn’t get cheated.  There are amazing possibilities here at this [new] school.  The Murray community is a strong supporter of education,” Naylor said.  

Guests could walk through the school to see its 40 classrooms with audio-visual enhancements, five science labs, practice rooms for band and choir, a media center with computer lab, a dance room, an exercise and weight room, a full-size gymnasium and a half-size gym, and an auditorium, which Murray City partnered with, that is both state-of-the-art and large enough to be used for community events. 

There are some unique touches to the school. The concrete is seamless and stained royal blue to match school colors.  “Hillcrest Gladiators” is included on the maple hardwood of the gymnasium floor.  Skylights will give natural illumination to enclosed classrooms, while other rooms have LED lighting and energy-efficient windows. And, the school has geothermal sourcing which will allow a cost savings and more efficient way to heat and cool the new building, said Rock Boyer, Murray School District support services director.

Kendall Smith of Hughes General Contractors said that some features were among firsts for a school.

“We surpassed our expectations and foresee that others will walk through this school to see it as a model for others,” he said.

Principal Jennifer Covington thanked the former residents of Hillside Drive, who gave up their homes so they could be demolished for the setting of the new school; the taxpayers for passing the $33 million bond in 2012; and the architects and construction crews, who made the plans teachers and others created a reality for students.

“I am excited about this building filled with beautiful architecture,” she said.  “But even more important than the brick and mortar that has gone into this building are the people who will come into this school and how we take care of it.  It is truly the faculty, staff and students who will make it come alive.”

Covington said that they will continue tested approaches and traditions, while implementing new educational opportunities with the resources that have been made available as the school opens this August for about 850 seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade students.

“We also look forward to establishing new traditions.  We look forward to promoting Gladiator Pride and to creating a culture where the students and faculty focus on taking care of themselves, taking care of each other, and taking care of our school,” she said.

District Superintendent Steve Hirase also thanked those who sacrificed their homes, those who served on the Board of Education, those who helped from passing the school bond to those who partnered with the district to make the school a reality.

Hirase began his remarks by saying, “And suddenly you know…It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginning’s end.” He then told students that it is their accomplishments that will define the legacy of what the school will become.

“As we assemble in the commons area, you see the words, ‘Take Care of Yourself, Take Care of Others, and Take Care of the School,’” he said.  “It lies within each student to make sure that they live these words and as they do so, it will be these actions that will create the magic that will be felt within these walls.”

The path to building the new junior high wasn’t clear-cut.  Ross Wentworth, of Naylor Wentworth Lund Architects, recalled former District Superintendent Richard Tranter asking if it could be rebuilt on existing land about 10 years ago.  

“I told him there was no reasonable way,” Wentworth said.  “There is some land higher on State Street and some lower on 53rd, and more stairs in that building than any other building on the planet.”

Still, Wentworth said Tranter wouldn’t take no for an answer and asked if it was possible to combine part of the site with Hillside Drive.

“My first response was, ‘Are you crazy?’  Then, we did a study for the building and it’s the footprint where we’re all sitting now,” he said.

Tranter, who was on hand at the dedication, said that Naylor Wentworth Lund Architects and Hughes Construction took to heart the important factors of the school and made it a reality, all while coming in under budget. 

“There is smart technology everywhere, from the sprinkler system to wireless hubs where students can connect to the Internet everywhere, not just in the four computer labs,” he said.  “It’s really, really a great junior high.”

The former Hillcrest was too old for any technology upgrades and posed safety concerns, since parts of it were not accessible for students in wheelchairs.

Tranter will oversee a historical wall in the new school, which will showcase bricks from the original building, old plaques and pictures, and other memorabilia. 

Board of Education chair Mitzie Huff dedicated the new school building “as an education institution for the students who will attend here and for all the members of the community.  It is the sincere desire of the Board of Education that all students who attend Hillcrest Junior High will experience true success in all their educational endeavors.”

She also recognized the former school, which will be torn down this fall, making the land available for leasing, and how that building holds fond memories for many Murray students.

“It’s hard to watch the old building go down and old memories fade, but in our hearts, they’ll always be there,” she said.